Sun-Powered Booze: Local Distillery Installs Solar Tech Made In Jacksonville

Jan 18, 2019

A steam-boiler powered by new solar technology manufactured in Jacksonville is now being used to make whiskey, bourbon, vodka and rum at a local distillery.

Jacksonville-based Artic Solar recently installed the solar steam boiler, powered by its patented XCPC solar thermal collectors, at Four Fathers Distillery in Northwest Jacksonville.

Four Fathers was founded in 2015 and started producing small-batch products for other distilleries the next year. Owner Tim Daniels said he produces specialty product lines for some of the biggest distilleries in the world.

He hosted an open house on Friday to show off the solar technology he’s incorporating into his business, and to spread the word that Four Fathers is getting ready to start selling its own products.

“By the end of the month, we should have our product out there,” said Daniels.

Artic Solar President and cofounder Bill Guiney claims the technology is a game changer for the solar heating industry.

Solar panels outside of Four Fathers Distillery in Jacksonville.
Credit Brendan Rivers / WJCT News

While older technology works fine for homes, Guiney said his new thermal collectors can produce much higher temperatures, making it viable for businesses like Four Fathers Distillery.

“Its cost is approximately the same as the old technology, but (it) delivers twice the work,” he said. “So our return on investment is significantly better for a commercial and industrial facility than the old solar technologies.”

His Arctic Solar cofounder Karen O’Brien said, “Our niche market is going to be any industrial or commercial project that needs between 200 and 400 degrees heat.”

Four Fathers owner Tim Daniels admits he won’t see a return on his solar investment any time soon.

“Right off the bat, is it very lucrative for us when it comes down to the cost and the natural gas being so cheap right now? Meh, maybe not. But in the future, yeah,” he said. “Down the road, it’ll eventually pay off itself, then continue to pay off itself.”

Arctic Solar estimates the system will pay for itself in three-to-8.5 years, depending on the type of fuel it’s replacing. But Daniels wasn’t solely motivated by cost.

“We want to do as much as we can environmentally,” he said. “So when they came to me talking about the sun, I was like, ‘Hell yeah. Let’s give it a try.’”

In addition to the new solar-powered steam boiler, Four Fathers Distillery still has two gas-powered boilers, for when sunlight isn’t in large supply.

Guiney said he haven’t sold the technology to any other companies yet, but he’s in talks with several that are interested.

“The USDA just did a testing and a show of using our solar technology to dry pumice in a drum dryer,” he said. “So they’re taking the residual skins and seeds from tomato processing, drying it out, and it turns into a very high protein for dog food.”

He said Artic Solar is also working on two projects with BART, the public train system in San Francisco, to evaporate wastewater in train yards.

“We’re going to evaporate up to 2,000 gallons a day. We can condense that vapor, turn it back into water and recycle it back into the facility,” he said. “And both of those are things that California wants to reduce: natural gas consumption, and obviously, anything they can do to save water.”

Anheuser-Busch is also interested in the technology. Guiney said he’s been in communication with the company’s sustainability team in St. Louis.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.