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Going green has helped a Chippewa Valley business earn some green.

Focus on Energy, a Wisconsin utilities statewide energy efficiency and renewable resource program, presented a check to Joel Minkoff, Executive Vice President of Operations at General Beverage, for $115,848 on Tuesday afternoon at General Beverage Northwest in Chippewa Falls. General Beverage Co., a wholesale distributor of fine wines, distilled spirits, beer and other beverage products, received the amount from Focus on Energy as a planned incentive for implementing a large amount of solar panels on the roofs of multiple facilities.

Starting in May, General Beverage, Focus on Energy and Legacy Solar Co-op (a solar cooperative that facilitates community solar projects focused on customer-based energy savings) began work on a collaborative project to implement solar energy at the Chippewa Falls General Beverage location to minimize emissions and costs used to run keg beer coolers and the entire plant.

The project saw 736 individual solar panels placed on the roof of the distribution plant and Minkoff said the results have been slowly coming in since the implementation of the panels.

“We wanted to be good stewards of the environment,” Minkoff said. “We saw an opportunity to try and cap our energy costs, and the nature of the beer business is you have coolers that are running 24/7, so if we could reduce our emissions and go solar we wanted to see what impact we could make. The results have been slow coming in, but they’re looking favorable and they think the next step would be to find out if we could store our own energy for use afterwards.”

The estimated savings for General Beverage from implementing solar energy is estimated to be $2,000 a month. This is an annual average and due to the nature of solar energy, the benefits are experienced during times of the year with a greater duration of natural sunlight.

As for energy savings, General Beverage is to see following the completion of this project is approximately 7,426,150 kilowatt hours during its life cycle. This is equivalent to providing electricity to 828 homes for a full year and equates to the use of burning 6 million pounds of coal.

Minkoff said General Beverage has enjoyed collaborating with Tony Hartmann, Director of Business Development at Legacy Solar Co-op, on multiple projects and hopes utilities companies like Focus on Energy continue to support the change of the energy use landscape.

“The first project we did with Legacy Solar Co-op was in Madison at our corporate headquarters,” Minkoff said. “This was the second project, and I liked it so much that I did it at my own home as well. We believe in this stuff and we’re very appreciative of Tony’s company and solar energy. We would hope that utilities would come on board and continue to be more supportive of these projects.”

Hartmann said he is thankful for General Beverage’s large investment in solar energy and thankful Focus on Energy is supporting General Beverage’s clean energy advancements.

“This company has invested the equivalent of a million dollars, with help leveraging the money that came from Focus on Energy,” Hartmann said. “So we just want to thank Bill and John who are here today on behalf of the Focus on Energy program.”

The solar panels General Beverage Northwest now uses everyday provide 50 and up to 67 percent of the facilities daily energy needs.

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Chippewa Herald reporter

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