WAUSAU (WAOW) -- It takes about 500 gallons of hot water to brew a batch of beer at Red Eye Brewery and Restaurant. Soon, that water will get its heat from the sky. Once installed, 10 solar collectors will soak up the sun's rays, mix them with water down through 6 tanks, and come out piping hot and ready to use. Red Eye will be the first Wisconsin brew pub to heat water with solar energy.
"We use a large amount of water in the brewing process and we thought that was how we could utilize the sun the greatest and get the biggest and best payback," said Brew Master Kevin Eichelberger."
And he added, the payback is substantial. The project is funded through a combination of loans and federal green energy grants. Eichelberger said the solar power should pay for itself in about 5 years. That's not to mention the environmental payback.
"We've calculated the equivalent carbon footprint to being equivalent of driving a car about 8,500 miles," Eichelberger said. "So we'll be reducing our carbon footprint by that amount."
Going green is nothing new for the restaurant. Owners said they've always used recycled plastic for to-go containers and utensils. And they donate all used grain from the brewery to an area farmer.
Red Eye's green goals are music to Sara Hinz's ears. She's the chairperson for Wausau's Commission For a Greener Tomorrow. It's a group dedicated to keeping the City of Wausau sustainable.
"It's a great fire starter for the city," Hinz said. "It really shows a lot of businesses that they can retro-fit an existing building with the solar panels to help with their water."
It's a commitment to the environment Eichelberger is excited to make. He hopes to have the solar panels installed and ready to use by the end of the week.