Episode 54 | Local Distillery Goes Green

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Known for its history in the cattle trade and being the stomping grounds of infamous wild west outlaws, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Downtown Fort Worth is home to nationally and internationally acclaimed alcohol manufacturer Acre Distilling.

“We opened in December 2015. Acre Distilling is named after the old historic neighborhood called Hell’s Half Acre,” said Tony Formby, owner of Acre Distilling. “This building, built in 1920 after prohibition, is right in the middle of what was one of the wildest areas of any of the old western frontier towns.”

Acre Distilling is renowned for its in-house flavored spirits and other beverages.

“We make a wide variety of spirits. We have seven different whiskeys, four vodkas, three gins, and we make rum of all sorts,” added Tony. 

But that isn’t the only thing that makes this distillery stand out. Acre Distilling is believed to be the only solar-powered distillery in the state of Texas.

Going Solar

“We got an opportunity to work with Tony here from Acre Distilling around two and a half years ago,” said David Lee, Chief Operating Officer of Circle L Solar. “We installed shy of 400 solar panels that supply all the electricity usage for this entire facility.”

Circle L Solar is a residential and commercial installation company.

“Circle L Solar was founded in 2016. We are a vertically integrated company, meaning we do everything from the sale to the installation. Not only do we specialize in rooftop solar, but also back up battery storage and EV charging,” said Shaun Sierra, Chief Executive Officer of Circle L Solar.

The solar technology powers the lighting, air conditioning, machinery in the tasting room, and a separate barrel building located right next to the distillery.

“Operating solar power is practically seamless,” Tony explained. “Electricity comes in off the panels, goes through the inverters, and goes back through our panels. It’s just like electricity coming from the grid. If it’s more than we need, the rest is used for other aspects of the distillery.”

And solar energy is also used to make Acre Distilling’s beloved drinks.

“We’ve been upgrading equipment to be more reliant on electricity. We put a new still in that heats up through electricity. The jackets on it are full of vegetable oil that is heated up electrically to heat the contents of our other big still,” said Tony. “The initial one is steam heated, so we’re actually using natural gas to heat that one. As we move along and expand, more of the equipment will be run by electricity, which is generated by the solar panels.”

But Tony Formby wanted to go further in his initiative to go green.

Doing More to Go Green with EV

“I’m very concerned about the future of my children and grandchildren in terms of global warming climate change,” said Tony.

With a previous background in renewable energy as a former fellow at the Colorado Cleantech Industries Association (CCIA), Tony has always had a passion for studying the economic viability of using renewable energy in homes and businesses.

“The EV market is growing rapidly,” Tony explained. “Electric vehicles are coming, and there’s going to be a need for charging stations everywhere.”

When he called on Circle L Solar again, Tony initially wanted to install a personal EV charger for his car in the distillery’s parking lot. But he soon envisioned expanding EV charger use to customers.

“Plus, now that I’ve got a surplus of electricity from my solar panels, I can actually sell it through the electric chargers to people that want to charge their cars,” Tony added.

Circle L Solar, City Electric Supply, & Siemens Team Up

Circle L Solar called City Electric Supply (CES) Fort Worth to help supply material for the EV installations.

City Electric Supply Fort Worth provided everything from EV chargers to the electrical materials like wire, PVC fittings, couplings, elbows, and miscellaneous materials,” said Outside Sales Representative Abraham Biel.

And CES turned to long-time vendor partner Siemens to manufacture the EV chargers and to help facilitate the project between the three parties.

“City Electric Supply is one of our key suppliers in the North Texas area. They are one of our best distributors. We work closely with their sales team and management, and they do really well at supporting our customers and end users,” said Rhett Hasserd, Sales Specialist at Siemens.

Bringing on a well-known manufacturer into a project of this scale was essential. CES Fort Worth also involved District Manager Philip McKinney.

“The branch brought me in for some guidance. I sat down with David and Shaun from Circle L Solar, and it went organically from there,” said McKinney.

While the scheduling for the project was coming together, Circle L Solar and Siemens forged a co-branding deal together, thanks to CES.

“This is actually the first time co-branding has been done through a channel with Circle L Solar,” explained Tracy Gentry, Channel Sales Engineer for Siemens. “CES approached us about white labeling the chargers with Circle L Solar on them. Our chargers have Siemens on the front panel, and Circle L Solar had requested that their logo be put on the front panel as well.” 

Solidifying Relationships

“Co-branding these chargers with Circle L Solar allows us both to put our name out into the marketplace, and it solidifies the partnership between Siemens, City Electric Supply, and Circle L Solar,” said Rhett.

And it also solidified their relationship with Tony.

“I’m very pleased with how the project has evolved. Initially, City Electric Supply and Siemens weren’t part of the equation, but Circle L Solar brought them on board,” said Tony. “The whole project, including the EV chargers has been very beneficial because my electricity cost hasn’t gone up in the last two years. Plus, I’m gaining more customers from people using the EV chargers and coming in to see what Acre Distilling is about.” 

So far, eight EV chargers have been installed at Acre Distilling. 

“We plan to add up to 20 more!” Tony said excitedly. 

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