PASO ROBLES — Tucked behind Firestone Walker Brewing Company is what co-founder David Walker playfully calls the “solar system” — a 2.1-megawatt array that will offset a majority of the brewery’s energy usage.
“That is a pretty grand word for it, isn’t it, solar system,” he says with a hearty laugh before lowering his voice and saying, “Welcome to our solar system.”
He is obviously having a bit of fun, but make no mistake, Walker and co-founder Adam Firestone take sustainable brewing very seriously.
“Whenever we can reduce our carbon footprint, we are going to do so, and using sunshine to fuel our brewery is a simple way for us to participate,” Walker says. “Brewers have sought to conserve energy for centuries, and we want to continue that tradition here on the Central Coast.”
The solar project is another in the long list of commitments Firestone Walker has made to the environment since brewing began here on the Central Coast in 1996.
“A no-brainer really,” Walker says, adding that they feel it is a fitting milestone on the eve of the brewery’s 25th anniversary.
The 9.7-acre solar array is located on Firestone Walker land adjacent to the brewery and was built in collaboration with REC Solar. It features ground-mounted single-axis trackers that maximize solar energy capture. It is projected to generate 4,570 MWh (megawatt hours) of electricity each year.
A second, smaller 277-kilowatt solar installation will occupy a parking shade structure spanning 14,000 square feet just south of the brewery.
Construction of the solar project began in April and included utility substation upgrades that will make it easier for other local companies to tap into solar energy power.
For the better part of the past decade, Firestone Walker has ramped up its sustainability efforts in what it calls its “Brewing for Tomorrow” initiative.
“Reuse, repurpose and recycle” has been one of the brewery’s mantras since its earliest days when it began brewing with recycled equipment from the Firestone family winery.
The brewery’s “boneyard” is one great example. Retired tanks and other equipment go into the boneyard where they are repurposed for use elsewhere, such as booths for Taproom seating.
Other Firestone Walker Brewing for Tomorrow examples include:
• Advanced recovery systems now allow kettle steam to be captured and reused for heating wort, further reducing natural gas and electricity usage.
• Brewery process water is treated on site and returned to the local aquifer.
• Firestone Walker also uses specialized equipment, looped systems and engineering strategies to conserve and reuse water.
• LED lighting located throughout the brewery campus increases energy efficiency by 75 percent.
• Firestone Walker’s new warehouse is energy efficient thanks to a highly reflective roof design; leading-edge insulation; electric forklifts; and efforts to ship by rail when possible.
• Spent grains from the brewing process are converted into feed for local livestock.
Giving back and being good neighbors is ingrained in the Firestone Walker Brewing Company. It goes beyond the environment.
This Spring, Firestone Walker did beer drops for frontline medical workers and community volunteers as a way of saying thank you for helping the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Firestone Walker participated in the local Coats for Kids drive last December, with staff donating coats and the brewery bought coats from local stores, totaling more than 150 coats donated. They are planning similar activities in December.
Even their signature events benefit the community in significant ways.
The Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest has greatly supported the nonprofit Paso Robles Pioneer Day over the years. All proceeds from the fest go to Pioneer Day, helping preserve this beloved local tradition.
The brewery’s annual From The Barrel event benefits Woods Humane Society, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to the humane care of homeless dogs and cats in San Luis Obispo County.
Firestone Walker has long donated beer to Paso Robles Concerts in The Park. All beer purchased by concert patrons is donated by Firestone Walker, with proceeds benefiting the Recreation Enhances Community (REC) Foundation.
Walker says doing all of this is the right thing to do.
“California’s Central Coast has been our home for a few generations — we have an affection for this place and feel an obligation to treat it as well as we possibly can,” Walker says.
About Firestone Walker
Firestone Walker is an innovative California beer company founded in 1996. Firestone Walker’s main brewery in Paso Robles produces a diverse portfolio ranging from iconic pale ales to vintage barrel-aged beers. The Barrelworks facility in Buellton makes eccentric wild ales, while the Propagator pilot brewhouse in Venice specializes in R&D beers and limited local offerings. Firestone Walker is also the brewery behind 805, one of the nation’s fastest-growing beers. More at FirestoneBeer.com.