Turning sunlight into beer: Snoqualmie Falls Brewery talks solar energy – Snoqualmie Valley Record

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With Earth Day around the corner, calls for individuals and businesses to be more mindful of their environmental impact are on the rise.

But, for Snoqualmie Falls Brewery owner Voyislav Kokeza, environmental stewardship runs deep — both at home and at work.

“From the age of 18 or 19, I started thinking, how is it that clean energy is not taking off more than it has?” said Kokeza, who while growing up would read as much as he could find on Nikola Tesla and his work on renewable energy. “Then I read about Snoqualmie Falls and how much clean energy we produce there, and it inspired me further.”

With 20 years of electrical and commercial building experience, Kokeza purchased 8032 Falls Avenue SE in the early 2000s, soon after he moved his family to the area.

Nearly 20 years later, Kokeza and his family took over operations at the now-popular Snoqualmie Falls Brewery after the previous tenant retired. They went on to prioritize expanding the brewery’s canned beer production and its distribution throughout the state, and built an outdoor beer garden to increase patronage.

“We needed to do a lot of improvements, and all of the production equipment was old,” he said. “When we took over we thought, why not do the production and whatever we can with clean solar energy, so we did. Now we have many businesses calling us about clean energy because they like the way we are going.”

Sunergy Systems, the company Kokeza contracted to install solar panels on his home, installed 105 panels on the roof of the brewery in 2021, in what is the largest solar array used for any brewery in Washington, according to the Sunergy website.

The instalment aligned Snoqualmie Falls Brewery with a nationwide movement of breweries utilizing solar energy.

While the first American brewery to install solar panels did so in 2006, the trend started to gain momentum in 2010, according to Whalling City Solar. In 2018, the annual Brews from the Sun competition, organized by Solar United Neighbors highlighted 41 breweries utilizing solar energy across 21 states.

The Snoqualmie Falls Brewery solar panels — installed on the roof of the outdoor beer garden and the taproom itself — cost close to $100,000. In their first year, they produced nearly 40,000 kilowatt-hours of clean energy, enough to power the entire production process.

“If it’s a really sunny day like today, it’s probably powering the whole brewery, but on a cloudy day it’s somewhat less,” Kokeza said. “I believe it’s a win-win for the customer, for the town, for us. The cleaner the better.”

Capitalizing on their investment, Snoqualmie Falls Brewing pours a blood orange beer — Solar Crush — as an homage to the solar panels and Kokeza’s son’s favorite childhood drink, Orange Crush.

While it will take Snoqualmie Falls Brewery 12 years to save as much on energy costs as they have spent on the solar panels, Kokeza believes it’s worth it.

“We still feel great about what we’re doing because it’s not all about the money,” he said. “It’s about preserving the environment for younger generations.”

Solar panels on the Snoqualmie Falls Brewery. Photo courtesy of Sunergy Systems

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