Suffolk brewery cuts energy bill by £1k a month after installing solar roof

Solar panels on the roof of the Nethergate Brewery building

Nethergate Brewery - kitted out with solar panels - Credit: Green Building Renewables

A Suffolk brewery has shaved £1k a month off its massively increased energy bills - thanks to a new set of solar panels on its roof.

Nethergate Brewery, at Long Melford, near Sudbury, said it was part of its bid to become more sustainable.

The company - which employs 15 people - has seen eye-watering gas and electricity bill increases since April when new rates came into force. Its electricity bill leapt from £1,100 a month to £3,500pm. Gas rocketed from £1,500 to £4,500pm. Overall its bills tripled prior to the installation - from £2,660 pm to £8k.

The new 36kW array was installed by renewable energy company Green Building Renewables based in Colchester - formerly Eco East Anglia. New Anglia Growth Hub's Road to Net Zero grant covered three quarters of the cost of the works.

Nethergate has sought to cut its carbon footprint through a range of measures, including cutting its waste and its impact on the environment.

Nethergate general manager Robert Crawford said the company had already made many changes to its products to become more sustainable - and the solar panels had been installed in the nick of time - although the business was looking to cut its carbon footprint prior to the big energy bill rises this year.

"It's quite shocking - it's a tough old game at the moment," he said of the price rises the company has faced.

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The vessels used to make the beer have a 5,500 litre capacity and the beer has to be boiled as part of the process. Once made, it has to be kept in chillers to prevent it going off - all of which is energy-intensive, he explained.

"There's lots of energy consumption in the business and we are working at ways to cut it down," he said. "We have been looking at ways to manage the future and so far it's paying off but it's harder and harder."

The company was already trying to become more sustainable.

"We use an environmentally friendly packaging alternative. We've invested in electric vehicles and charging units on-site," he said.

"And now the installation of the solar PV system to harvest our energy demonstrates our 100% commitment to positively impacting our local community, suppliers, and customers." 

The solar system consists of a Solis 36kW three-phase inverter and 108 Eurener  panels. As the brewery building operates fermenters, stills and chiller units which run all day, its energy use is high. 

York-based Green Building Renewables recently acquired  Eco East Anglia - which Robert Walmsley and Phil Strickland founded.

The Yorkshire business has expanded its network of local renewable energy experts into the East of England and says it is actively looking to acquire other local renewable companies as it expands its network across the UK.

Green Building Renewables managing director Chris Delaney said: "This is an incredible piece of work by Robert and Philip's team in East Anglia. As well as installing low carbon and renewable technology in homes, we are looking to work alongside businesses with clear sustainable commitments like Nethergate brewery.

"The transformation of UK businesses to become more sustainable will only be achieved with the type of pioneering thinking that Nethergate has shown." 

Nethergate was launched in 1986 and produces a beers and a craft lager as well as spirits in its newly-installed distillery.