Live music. Cross-country ski and snowshoe trails. Locally sourced food. Craft beer brewed on site with local ingredients.
How does it get better than that? Solar energy.
How does it get even better? Solar grazing!
That’s right, Blasty Bough Brewery in Epsom, NH is not only harnessing the power of the sun for their brewery, restaurant, and music venue, they’re also diving into agrivoltaics: using sheep to keep their ground mount solar array clear of grass, and letting the array provide shade for their sheep.
Named after a branch of pine tree used to start a fire, Blasty Bough Brewing Company has been creating delicious local beer for six years. Owner Dave Stewart says going solar has been on his mind since day one.
“Solar was in the thought process from the get-go,” he explains. “It just never rose to a level of urgency. Now it has. We knew it was time to do this thing.” Financed in part with a USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant, the array generates more than enough clean solar energy to offset their entire electric bill. The 87-kilowatt ground mount array in their field powers their electric units to heat the water and boil the wort; it also powers their cold room, lights, refrigeration, and the sound system for their concert series. The 182 solar panels currently offset more than 100% of Blasty Bough’s energy consumption. They intentionally oversized the system because they plan to switch their heating from oil to air source heat pumps. EV charging is in their future, along with a variety of other sustainability measures.
“I would encourage folks to do solar,” says Dave. “I still don’t know exactly what impact it’s going to have on our energy usage, but we’re generating a lot more power even in January, so my suspicion is that as we get into the sunnier, longer-daylight months, we’re going to see a pretty good payback. All indications are that it’s a good investment and the right thing to do.”
Blasty Bough is a member of the New Hampshire Sustainable Craft Beverage Program, a voluntary recognition and technical assistance program managed by the NHDES Pollution Prevention Program for environmental leaders in the craft beverage industry. One of these sustainability measures involves all of Blasty Bough’s food waste to the farm down the road to feed his cows, chickens, and ducks. And, in very good news for the solar array, this farmer also owns sheep.
The process of solar grazing is beneficial to both the sheep and the solar array. The sheep keep the grass low around the array, reducing or eliminating the need for a fossil fuel-powered lawn mower, and the array provides shade and habitat for the sheep.
Beginning this spring, Blasty Bough will be partnering with their neighboring farm to allow the sheep to graze in the fenced-in area of the array. Dave also planted an arborvitae hedge to separate the solar array area from the rest of the farm, and plans to build hop trellises in the field as well. The entire property is part of the brewery experience; it borders Epsom Town Forest so there’s ample opportunity for walking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing on the trails. There’s a Tiny House resort one mile through the woods as well if you want to make a weekend of it.
In addition to exploring the forest and trails, Blasty Bough also offers a lot of music – and now it’s powered by the sun! Named the Best Small Listening Room in NH in 2020, it offers weekly Thursday sessions as well as monthly sessions upstairs. A new sound system lets them broadcast the music throughout the taproom and even onto the front porch.
Check out their events calendar and plan a time to visit this incredible venue and brewery powered by solar energy. News & Events — Blasty Bough Brewing Company