Solar-Powered Beer at the New Butte Brewing Company

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The Butte Brewing Company is a local legend. It opened in uptown Butte 1885, and though its doors shut in 1965, advertisements for its “Butte Special” beer still grace the sides of several historic uptown buildings.

Tony and Teresa Olson, natives of Butte and Anaconda, respectively, bought rights to the Butte Brewing Company name and broke ground on a new home for the brewery in 2012. The Olsons were determined to honor the character of the old brewing company while bringing it into the 21st century, and sustainability was an important component of their plans from the beginning.

The new Butte Brewing Company is constructed of insulated concrete forms and heated with an efficient in-floor radiant heating system. As for solar, “We wanted to be able to produce as much energy as we could, on our own,” Tony explains. They were also inspired by their neighbors: three nearby buildings also sport rooftop solar arrays. “It’s an old area of town, but there are lots of new buildings going in,” Tony explains, “and solar seems to be a theme here.”

20 kilowatt solar array on the roof of the new Butte Brewing Company (photo credit: Butte Brewing Company)
20 kilowatt solar array on the roof of the new Butte Brewing Company (photo credit: Butte Brewing Company)

The Olsons hired Oasis Montana of Stevensville, Montana to install the solar array on the brewery. They were pleased to learn of incentives available through the Rural Energy for America (REAP) program and the NorthWestern Energy USB program. As a result of those programs they were able to install a 20 kilowatt solar array, offsetting more of the brewery’s energy use than otherwise would have been possible.

Growlers (photo credit: Butte Brewing Company)
Growlers (photo credit: Butte Brewing Company)

When it came to designing the solar array, Tony requested that Oasis Montana use REC brand solar panels, due to a local, and personal, connection: REC has a large manufacturing facility in Butte, and Tony works with them frequently through his other business, a safety and health training firm.

The new brewery building is finished, five beers are on tap, and Tony reports that they are waiting on one final permit approval before opening to the public. This summer, for the first time in half a century, Buttians will once again be able to enjoy a cold Butte Special at the Butte Brewing Company. But this time, it’ll be solar-powered.

Quick Stats

  • Capacity (kW): 20
  • Owner: Tony and Teresa Olson
  • Location: 465 E. Galena Street, Butte, MT
  • Incentives: Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), NorthWestern Energy USB grant
  • Installer: Oasis Montana
  • Equipment Used: (80) REC 250W solar modules, (2) Fronius IG Plus 10 kW grid-tie inverters