Why have a traditional rectangular solar array when you could turn it into a Texas-sized work of solar art?

At the Alamo Beer Company’s new brewery and biergarten in San Antonio lies a tribute to the city’s iconic Alamo made of solar panels. Located just a five-minute drive (or 15-20 minute walk) from the fort itself and around the corner from San Antonio’s new Pearl neighborhood development, the array can be seen from numerous downtown buildings, including the Tower of the Americas. In turn, the beer company has successfully turned utility into a quite visible piece of Texas-sized art.

This array includes 256 solar modules and spans 5,000 square-feet of roof space on the brewery’s main building. Comprised of 250-Watt SolarWorld modules (all made in the United States), the installation is expected to produce about 90,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. To give a sense of the scale - the star in the middle of the design (alas, not a solar panel itself) stands 12 feet tall.

Photo of Alamo Beer Company solar array by One80 Solar

According to Eugene Simor, CEO of Alamo Beer Company “we’re committed to producing a quality product: great beer…Doing so by using a sustainable energy source makes it a win not only for us, but for the entire community.”

The array is:

  1. expected to pay for itself in four-to-five years
  2. rated for a 30-year lifespan
  3. insured guaranteed against failures (including significant efficiency losses) for 25 years.

The expected payback period is partially due to a solar rebate made available by San Antonio’s CPS Energy’s Save Energy for Tomorrow Plan (STEP). CPS is the nation’s largest municipally owned utility, serving more than 765,000 electricity customers and 335,000 natural gas customers in the San Antonio area. Another key part of the economics lies in the fact that the Alamo Brewing Company can sell any excess electricity back to CPS at a full retail rate through a net-metering agreement.

The solar array’s design was envisioned by One80 Solar, a commercial solar panel company headquartered in San Antonio. The solar company’s CEO, Patrick Attwater had heard about the brewing company’s new facility and saw the opportunity in its wide roofs and abundant sun exposure. In turn, he spoke to Simor about a potential partnership and later competed with a number of other solar companies for Simor’s business. According to Attwater, “there isn’t another PV array out there that takes on an artistic shape, accented with additional fabricated pieces to help define the image.”

The array came online in March. In August, an interactive educational kiosk located inside of the brewery came online that enables visitors to see how much solar energy is being produced as well as a website for those who wish to check-out the array’s production from afar.

Photo of website interface for monitoring the Alamo-array from Alamo Beer Company’s website.

Over its six months of operation, the array has been consistently producing 10-15% more electricity than expected. But, time will tell if this trend will continue as the seasons change.

View of Alamo Beer Company solar array, the neighbouring Hays Street Bridge, and downtown San Antonio by One80 Solar

H/T and thanks to Caroline Matthews for mentioning this work of solar art.