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U-M students are the brains behind Corner Brewery's $1M green renovation

Ypsilanti's Corner Brewery is currently undergoing a $1 million expansion and clean energy renovation project, and a team of University of Michigan students played no small part in this green sweep. Beginning in February of 2010, a group of students in U-M's School of Natural Resources and Environment graduate program spent 14 months working on planning for this project at the brewery, which earlier had undergone an overview energy audit through the Clean Energy Coalition.

"Our goal was to help align the business practices of the owners more closely with their values of environmental conservation," Jarett Diamond, a dual master's degree candidate in U-M's school of natural resources and the department of mechanical engineering, says. "And our pathway to achieve that was to focus on energy and water efficiency on site, as well as options for renewable energy generation. And we wanted to tie all these options completely together with a program for employee and customer education and community engagement."

Diamond and fellow team members Jazmine Bennett, Gary Fischer, and Kerby Smithson performed an energy and water resource audit. They measured where and how the energy and water were being used at the Corner Brewery's restaurant and brewing operations and then identified the most cost effective options to improve energy utilization efficiency and water efficiency, Diamond explains.

"One example that was very surprising was how much energy their chiller was using," he notes. The chiller, used to cool beer during the fermentation process, was much larger and more powerful than what was actually needed. "So we put in a proposal for downsizing the chiller and also adding a heat recovery option, so instead of just dumping heat into the air that's removed from the fermentation tanks, that heat can be used to preheat water for the next batch of beer."  

The Corner Brewery also sponsored the team's presentation at the Brewers Association annual gathering in San Francisco, where they were featured as one of the must-see seminars preceding the conference, Diamond says. And U-M made a short documentary film about the project.

So did brewery management actually implement any of the students' recommendations? "That's what I'm working on right now," Diamond says. He has been hired on as energy director for the summer. Currently he's requesting bids for a downsized chiller and for different solar panel configurations.

The brewery will also be showcasing its project at the Ann Arbor Green Fair on June 10.

"Look for big changes," Diamond promises. "It's great to be conserving energy at the brewery, but we want to show how easy and cost effective it can be to be more environmentally friendly, and that this is something people can do in their own homes and their own businesses and see very rapid paybacks and not only feel good about it, but actually see financial returns."

Source: Jarett Diamond, MS/MSE candidate, U-M's School of Natural Resources and Environment & College of Engineering
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

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