Oct 29, 2019Virtue Cider installs 200 solar panels at orchard
Virtue Cider, a Michigan-based cidermaker recently installed a 78-kilowatt (kW) solar array next to its cider houses.
The new installation means half of its purchased electricity will be coming from renewable sources and is equivalent to 150,000 pounds of CO2 avoided each year, according to a press release from the company.
Virtue Cider’s location in southwest Michigan includes a young orchard and cider houses.
Apples are solar-powered, and now Virtue Cider is too. The new solar array includes 200 panels installed on the north side of Cider House 1, which will help offset the company’s already very low electricity use for its cidermaking and farm operations, according to the release. The array will be capturing more than 100,000 kWh of clean, renewable electricity each year, helping to offset 58% 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,” Gregory Hall, Virtue Cider founder, said in a released statement.
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. Hall was a critical member of the advisory team that brought the initiative, called Elevate, and its environmentally friendly commitments to life.
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.
This installation is part of Virtue’s greater mission of making proper farmhouse cider the greenest way possible, according to a release from the company. 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.
The rest of Virtue’s 48-acre property is dedicated to reestablishing the historic homestead, which used to be an apple orchard in the late 1800s, according to the press release. Presently, 15 acres have been reseeded with native grasses and plants, which attract more than 200 bird species and countless butterflies, honey bees, and other pollinators.
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, according to the press release. 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.