Copper Hop Brewing Company has joined MIGreenPower to support the creation of renewable energy and also works with local farms to keep the grain used in the brewing process out of the landfill by feeding it to cows.

Copper Hop Brewing Company has joined MIGreenPower to support the creation of renewable energy and also works with local farms to keep the grain used in the brewing process out of the landfill by feeding it to cows.

Photo provided by Copper Hop Brewing Company


Copper Hop goes green in St. Clair Shores

Brewery first to attribute energy use to renewables through MIGreenPower

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 29, 2021

 Energy DTE Energy’s solar farm in Lapeer has 200,000 panels over 250 acres of land and generates enough clean energy to power 11,000 homes.

Energy DTE Energy’s solar farm in Lapeer has 200,000 panels over 250 acres of land and generates enough clean energy to power 11,000 homes.

Photo provided by DTE

 MIGreenPower is DTE Energy’s voluntary renewable program that allows electric customers to attribute their electricity to wind or solar power.

MIGreenPower is DTE Energy’s voluntary renewable program that allows electric customers to attribute their electricity to wind or solar power.

Photo provided by DTE Energy

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — With an eye to contribute to the development of renewable energy projects in Michigan, Copper Hop Brewing Company has become the first brewery in the state to enroll in DTE Energy’s MIGreenPower program, which allows customers to attribute their energy use to wind and solar parks throughout the state.

Ryan Balicki, who owns Copper Hop Brewing Company, 23401 Greater Mack Ave., with Jeremy Lewis and Shaun Koltuniak, said they considered installing solar panels when they opened their brewery in late 2019.

“But, being that we don’t own the building, it’s one of those things where it’s a big investment for somebody else,” Balicki said.

When the trio heard about DTE Energy’s MIGreenPower program, however, “we thought it was a great opportunity to do our part and, also, bring some awareness around it.”

Balicki said, while some may scoff at just offsetting the energy the business is using, “the more people that do this and offset energy that (DTE Energy is) making, the more fields they’ll put up.

“That’s how you have to look at it,” Balicki said. “We’re not actually using the energy created by those fields, but we’re helping to offset those costs so they can continue to support those green initiatives.”

MIGreenPower is DTE Energy’s voluntary renewable program that allows electric customers to reduce their carbon footprint by attributing their electricity to renewable projects: either wind power or a combination of solar and wind power. Brian Calka, DTE Energy’s director of renewable solutions who heads MIGreenPower, said there is not a physical cable or wire leading into the customer’s home or business that only supplies wind or solar power — rather, the add-on charge enables DTE to more quickly add to the wind and solar power grid in excess of what it is required to do by law.

“Additional incremental renewable projects are being constructed and are being put on to the electrical grid. The grid, overall, is greening up as a result,” Calka said.

As an add-on to their electric bill, customers pay 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour for wind power or 3.1 cents per kilowatt hour for a combination of wind and solar power. The benefit of the program is the elimination of startup costs, he said.

“You don’t have to worry about physical panels up on the roof (or) in the field next to your business or your home. You can call our call center hotline (or) click a few buttons, and you’re in the program.”

DTE Energy began the program in 2017 and has seen “rapid growth” across its customer base, “which speaks to customers being aware of climate change and what the implications of it could be.”

There are more than 30,000 residential customers and 350 businesses, ranging in size from large corporations like Ford and General Motors to small businesses like Copper Hop Brewing Company, Calka said.

Currently, DTE Energy has one wind project and two solar projects in use for its customers. Within the next 30-60 days, three more wind projects are coming online for the company’s largest customers, and DTE has requested approval for three additional solar projects that will be online near the end of 2022 to meet customer demand. Altogether, MIGreenPower customers have supported 1.8 million megawatt hours of clean energy.

“That is equivalent to, approximately, 300,000 passenger vehicles removed from the road, in terms of the carbon emissions,” Calka said.

On average, Balicki said participating in the program costs Copper Hop Brewing Company less than $100 per month. Using a gas-fired system for brewing is already more efficient than using electricity, Balicki explained, but they wanted to do whatever they could to help the environment with their business.

“Breweries are very green-friendly, and they want to do what they can to help the environment,” he said. “We’re excited to be a part of it and hope that more breweries join the initiative.”

Copper Hop is among other breweries that recycle the groundwater it uses to cool the wort, which is the liquid extracted from the mashing process during the brewing of beer. The microbrewery also works with two local farms, Ruemenapp’s Polled Herefords and Ira Acres Farm, both in Fair Haven, who feed the grains that have been used in the brewing process to their cows.

“The grain is still good. All we’re doing is stripping the sugar off the grain, but the grain still has nutritional value,” Balicki said.

In addition to Copper Hop Brewing Company, St. Clair Shores businesses Akray Walker Paint Co., Harper Fuel Mart and Pink Elephant Cupcakes also participate in the MIGreenPower program.

There has been a diverse range of businesses signing up to participate in the program, said DTE Energy Spokeswoman Cynthia Hecht.

“With all of these other people pooling their money together, we’re building three more solar power projects that are bigger than Lapeer. We are able to make a larger dent in reducing emissions and putting more clean energy onto the grid than an individual can.”

The solar farm in Lapeer has 200,000 panels over 250 acres of land and generates enough clean energy to power 11,000 homes, she said.

“It enables us to put more clean energy on the grid, so it’s really benefiting everyone, not just the initial person,” she added.

For more information or to sign up, visit www.migreenpower.com or call (855) 613-4445.

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