If Marble Distilling Co.’s barrels could talk, they’d spill a whisper they keep hearing from their chief distiller, Connie Baker. “I don’t think it’s ever been done,” she’s been known to say. That’s because the serial inventor/entrepreneur is up to her energy-efficiency tricks again, with CORE as her wingman.
In 2014, Baker co-founded MDC with the idea of making outstanding spirits while disrupting the notoriously water- and energy-intensive industry. Working with CORE and other innovators, she launched the business by pioneering a system that uses the distillery’s process water to heat the entire building (also home to a boutique inn), saving 4 million gallons of water and 75 metric tons of carbon per year.
This time around, Baker is taking steps to make MDC the world’s first net-zero distillery. Her most recent move was solving a cooling conundrum. While in the winter, Baker can tap the hot water generated during the distilling process to heat her rooms and domestic hot water, in the summer, she has to cool things down. Hence, the need for a mechanical device called a “chiller,” which Baker was in need of upgrading for an anticipated growth in production.
However, the chiller was also responsible for the “biggest number” on her utility bill and carbon footprint, which Baker understood she’d need to reduce if she was going to hit her net-zero goals. The answer — brainstormed with CORE and controls guru David Carpenter of Holbrook Services (“five of us sitting in the barrel room drinking a little whiskey”) — was a water-source heat pump that leverages the hot and cold tanks she already had on site for making her award-winning whiskeys, vodkas, and, now, hand sanitizer. By plugging into these tanks like thermal batteries, the heat pump can be used year round, to preheat the mash tanks or to cool down the rooms of the inn. And unlike mechanicals powered by fossil fuels, the heat pump can run off power from the sun.
The bottom line? Within two weeks of making the switch to the electric heat pump, Baker doubled her production and cut her utility usage in half. That’s right: twice the production for half the cost. And there’s more to come. As soon as her 32-kilowatt, rooftop solar array is up and running (thanks to a USDA grant), Baker will reach 100% electrical offset. Her heating and cooling will be carbon free.
Connie admits that it can be “very scary” to do things that haven’t been done before, but adds: “I don’t think there are big rewards for little risk.”
She credits CORE, who helped her ideate the custom system, for the assist: “It doesn’t have to be proven [technology] and CORE is still willing to help. They’re open to innovative ideas and driving change.”
Does your business or facility have an energy problem to solve? Sign up today for an on-site advising session with our team. As we did for Connie and hundreds of other business owners and facility managers, we can help you lower utility bills, access financial and technical resources and cut carbon emissions.