Diageo will try to make its new Bulleit whiskey distillery in Kentucky carbon neutral, electrifying the boilers with renewable power as a step toward the company’s climate change goals.

Gray, an engineering, design and construction firm, will complete fully integrated services for the 72,000-sq.-ft. facility in Lebanon. The site, to start production next year, will feature an automated distillery process including a granary, fermentation, distillation and barrel filling.

The facility is the first with net-zero carbon emissions for Diageo, which counts Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, Smirnoff, Captain Morgan and Baileys among its other brands. The company committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions and using electricity from only renewable sources by 2030.

At the new distillery, a key piece of the carbon-reduction plan is the use of electrode boilers that will avoid direct carbon emissions regularly generated by fossil fuel-fired boilers. A mix of renewable wind and solar energy will power the distillery, dry house and warehouses, Diageo says.

The plant will avoid about 117,000 metric tons of carbon emissions annually, equivalent to 25,000 less cars on the road for a year, the company says.

Features include:

Electrification of operations

  • Besides avoiding fossil fuels, the electrode boilers reduce noise pollution and other air contaminants.
  • Vehicles operated on-site, including trucks and forklifts, will be electric and charged by renewable energy.
  • 100% of the steam used on-site—for cooking, distillation and drying—will be generated by the electrode boilers.

Energy efficiency embedded into facility design

  • Energy efficiency will be optimized in the new electric boilers.
  • Exterior lighting will be solar powered.
  • Interior lighting will be LED.
  • Warehouse interior lighting will only activate during loading or unloading.
  • Lowered roofs will minimize heating and cooling requirements.

Sourcing renewable electricity

  • The facility will buy zero greenhouse gas emission electricity through long-term contracts with the local utility.
  • By sourcing renewable electricity and electrifying operations, the site will only require the purchase of residual amounts of carbon offsets, associated with operational elements such as emergency back-up power.

Water savings design

  • Site is designed to lead the industry in minimizing water and using it efficiently.

Zero waste to landfill

  • Site is designed to minimize waste through reuse and recycling, and any residual waste will not be sent to a landfill.

“As a company we know that our long-term sustainable growth depends on reducing our reliance on fossil fuels that contribute to climate change,” says Perry Jones, president, North America Supply for Diageo. “This groundbreaking undertaking to electrify our operations and then power them with renewable electricity will result in one of the largest carbon neutral distilleries in North America.”

The distillery has capacity to produce up to 10 million proof gallons per year and supplements existing production at the Bulleit Distilling Co. in Shelbyville, Ky. Bulleit will be the new site’s main product, but it will have the capability to distill a variety of bourbon and whiskey brands.

Gray Solutions, a Gray company, will use controls and automation to maximize efficiencies and minimize waste.

“Diageo’s commitment to sustainability will no doubt impact and challenge the industry toward advancement,” says Stephen Gray, president and CEO of Gray.

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