Taking a (Keg) Stand

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It wasn’t an easy decision for Steve Hindy to make but, hell, he thinks it was the right one.

Instead of subscribing to Con Edison’s cheaper blend of coal, natural gas, nuclear power, oil and hydropower, Hindy, the president and co-owner of Brooklyn Brewery, said he decided in August to “flip the switch,” and is now running the vats and hoppers in his Williamsburg brew house on wind power. His is the first company in the city to do so.

The green-friendly decision might win Hindy a few more toasts from Williamsburg’s wooly elite, but it will also guzzle away some of Brooklyn Brewery’s profits. He forecasts a 10 to 15 percent increase in his annual electricity bills. “It hurts, but it won’t take us under,” Hindy says.

A former Associated Press man who learned to home brew while on assignment in the liquor-starved Middle East, Hindy was first contacted by Community Energy this summer. The company has 20 giant, spinning wind turbines on farms in upstate New York and is looking to expand its city base. Though Brooklyn Brewery doesn’t run directly on energy produced from windmills, its allotment from the upstate turbines goes into the local electric grid.

Local pols are thrilled. “This is Brooklyn business at its best,” says Andrew Ross, communications director for Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Borough President. Unfortunately, Ross says, Hindy has so far been the only local business owner interested in a renewable energy source. While the state and federal government offer financial and tax incentives to energy suppliers like Community Energy, there are virtually no consumer incentives-besides a clean conscience and flattering PR-that would motivate a business owner to pay more for electricity.

Ross and Hindy point out that the more renewable energy is purchased, the cheaper it gets. New York’s EPA has already made the switch, as has Austin Grill, a Baltimore-based restaurant chain. In time, Hindy hopes, prices for wind will be competitive with other energy sources. “I don’t know if it’s gonna sell more beer,” he says. “But at least we’re taking a stand.”