Virtue Cider, a Michigan-based craft cidery located among miles of orchards and vineyards in Southwest Michigan’s Cider Coast, has just completed the installation of a 78-kW solar array next to its cider houses, which means that more than half of its purchased electricity will be coming from renewable sources and is equivalent to 150,000 pounds of CO2 avoided each year.
Courtesy of Virtue Cider
The new solar array includes 200 panels installed on the north side of Cider House 1, which will help offset the company’s already low electricity use for its cidermaking and farm operations. The array will be capturing over 100,000 kWh of clean, renewable electricity each year, helping to offset an estimated 58 percent of Virtue’s current electricity usage.
“For generations, Michigan farmers have worked from sunrise to sunset, now Virtue Farm works from dawn to dusk generating green electricity with our new solar panels,” said Gregory Hall, Virtue Cider founder.
The installation of solar panels at Virtue Cider is part of a larger company-wide commitment from Brewers Collective, the craft business unit of Anheuser-Busch, in which all craft partner brewery and cidery locations plan to have solar panels installed by the end of next year.
Virtue’s new solar project also contributes to Michigan’s goal to produce 15 percent of all electricity from renewable sources by 2021 as part of the State’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Virtue worked with ForeFront Power and PCI Solar to design and install the solar array. Construction was completed in August 2019, and interconnection to the electrical grid was completed in early October. The system is currently generating electricity, and visitors can view the panels on-site when exploring the cidery’s trails.
“Each pint of cider produced by Virtue Cider is now cleaner than before,” said ForeFront Power CEO Paul Walker. “Brewers Collective made a unique commitment to solar energy across the country and Virtue Cider is one of the first craft partners to reap the benefits of this initiative. We have really enjoyed working with their incredible team to make this a success.”
This installation continues Virtue’s mission of making proper farmhouse cider the greenest way possible. Virtue’s cider houses were designed and constructed in 2012 to use as little energy as possible: Cider House 1, which includes the Taproom and Bottle Shop, as well as the apple pressing and barrel-aging rooms, has no central cooling or heating; Cider House 2, which holds 22 2,000-gallon fermentation tanks also has no central cooling or heating, was also built with a recessed floor underground. By being underground, the building maintains an ambient temperature year-round, and the ciders can ferment naturally without other energy expenditures such as heating or cooling the tanks.
In addition to the young orchard and cider houses, Virtue’s farm is home to a variety of animals, through its heritage breed rehabilitation program that includes Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs and Icelandic sheep. These animals enjoy a safe environment and daily care, and help keep the property trimmed and keep the soil healthy through a rotational grazing program. The beloved animals are also a farm visitor favorite.
Virtue Cider and ForeFront Power welcome the new solar panel array. (From left to right: Ed Switzer, ForeFront Power project manager, Todd Ahsmann, Goose Island Beer Co. and Virtue Cider president, Gregory Hall, Virtue Cider founder, and David Ganske, ForeFront Power marketing manager)