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Solar Thermal and Its Applications for Industrial Food Applications

Mashing is the process of combining a mix of milled grain (typically malted barley), known as the “grain bill,” and water, known as “liquor,” and heating this mixture in a vessel called a “mash tun.” Solar thermal systems can reduce the costs of heating the liquor in Breweries. (Photo: Wikipedia.)

When Americans think of solar thermal, they mainly think of heating hot water for swimming pools, apartment buildings, hotels/motels, and residential homes. However, there are many industrial applications for solar thermal energy, especially for food processing.

Free Hot Water recently highlighted the Milwaulkee Brewing company going solar. Breweries can use solar hot water for part of the pasteurization process, and it can also be used for the cleaning and sanitizing beer fermentation tanks, as well as other brewing vessels.

Similarly, dairies and wineries can use solar thermal for their vessel sanitization systems. In fact, just about any industrial beverage company can benefit—and save money—by utilizing solar heated water for sanitization.

In addition to the beverage industry, animal farms and slaughterhouses in rural areas of the United States can be highly dependent on fossil fuels to heat water for processing meet, poultry, and pork.

For example, the St. Paul’s Review, a newspaper in Lumberton, NC, recently published a story about the largest solar thermal site ever built in the U.S. for Prestige Farms, a turkey grower with a meat processing plant. By reducing Prestige’s use of propane gas, Prestige will reportedly lower its annual energy costs by 25% to 35% and save over $1 million over the life of the project.

Solar-thermal systems are particularly efficient for industrial applications that require the use of relatively low-temperature water (i.e. 104F – 180 F). In addition to the food industry, that can include the manufacturing and processing of textiles, cosmetics, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.

Beyond the financial benefits, engineering a solar thermal system for industrial applications can also reduce the green house gas emissions of industrial farms. Not only does that help the planet, it can also show the surrounding community that the company cares about its environmental footprint, and that it’s doing something to improve local air quality.

All commercial solar thermal applications are eligible for a Federal 30% Investment Tax Credit, which allows a commercial owner to receive 30% off the installed cost of the project. In addition, there are many local subsides, as well additional Federal tax incentives that can dramatically reduce the upfront costs and speed the return on investment.

Bottom line: When you think of commercial solar hot water and solar thermal applications, remember that they have many industrial uses, especially for industrial agriculture and food processing.

Contact us for more ways to utilize solar thermal for your industrial food or beverage business.

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