There’s no doubt that cannabis cultivation can be a huge energy suck. Extreme energy consumption can suck the life out a cannabis business endeavor and very well could suck the life out of the progression of the industry.
Energy costs associated with cannabis cultivation can attribute to about 45% of the entire cost of a harvest.
As legalization continues to expand across the country there is a lot of talk about energy use and environmental impact. There’s a lot of concern over how certain cities, like Denver where cultivation facilities are already taxing the grid, and how they are going to be able to handle the growing demands. Grow rooms require lights that can mimic the intensity of the sun and with that light comes the scorching heat of the sun. Many growers use bulbs such as high-pressure sodium or or metal halide bulbs that use a staggering 1,000 watts or more each. They create a lot of heat, this heat then creates the need for air conditioning, ventilation and de-humidification which means even more energy use just to handle the symptoms. Fluorescent bulbs are more efficient and cooler but they can only be used during the early portion of the grow cycle. LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are efficient but they are expensive. It’s not just light, but the proper kind of light that is arguably the most important thing to the plant. The most important thing to consider when choosing lights is the flow of photons produced per joule of electricity and many argue that LEDs don’t live up to what cannabis needs to thrive.
It’s important to remember that there are many industries that we consider “normal” that have a far greater impact on the environment than cannabis cultivation
Cannabis production comes in at about .3%. Automobiles contribute to about 33% of all greenhouse-gas emissions- which is about 100 times that of cannabis production, our household refrigerators produce 7 times more and US Data centers produce at least 3 times that of cannabis.
It’s not all doom and gloom, there are many ways we are finding to reduce energy consumption as well as the carbon footprint for many of those industries and Cannabis is no different. For instance, there are many things you can do to reduce the cost of energy consumption due to light such as staggering use between grow rooms and choosing not to use lighting during peak times when utility companies often charge more as well as looking into places where you can also decrease your consumption in general. Green houses may provide some relief for energy consumption- what better way to conserve than to use what mother nature intended? Beautiful, bright, sunlight. Next to water, sunlight is the lifeblood of most plants.
Cannabis legalization could help the movement along by allowing innovators and inventors to perform research
Legalization could empower the country’s greatest minds to research, right out in the open, enticing them to really look for better ways to do things and develop more efficient products. Also with legalization, outdoor marijuana production has also begun to move out into the “open”, producing a much more quality product than in the past and changing the once inferior product’s image. But it is not without it’s pros and cons either, high water usage, pesticides use and deforestation are all things that have to be considered and remedied.
Water shortages, such as in Arizona where population has already outgrown available water sources, are not something to be taken lightly. When you consider that 85% of the fruits and vegetables America consumes in the winter are grown in the Colorado River Basin needing more efficient water use is a no-brainer. Hydroponic growing starts to looks better all the time since the industry claims 90% less water use than soil-based agriculture. Faster grow times, less instance of soil-born disease and pests are all pros, but many think that marijuana produced hydroponically doesn’t taste as good as soil grown and there are no natural nutrients.
Government entities are realizing that they need to set standards for energy consumption moving forward as more cultivation facilities pop up around the country, staining the power grids, but the needs are going to vary depending on the climate you are producing in. Oregon has has just finally pulled together a committee that is tasked with studying the energy and water consumption of cannabis production in hopes to be able to make recommendations to the Legislature later this summer.
The truth is the issues of sustainability aren’t just for the cannabis industry- they plague all business.
Data centers, mills, traditional agriculture, and manufacturing of all sorts need to consider being more sustainable. Populations are growing and it’s not just this industry that needs to plan for the future, it’s all industry. If we want to secure our place in the future we need to be on the forefront of consideration, moving forward from the beginning with sustainability in mind every step of the way. There are numerous means that can be employed for reducing depending on the type of environment you find yourself. Water reclamation and collection, wind turbines and solar power are all viable options for consideration, but the needs and feasibility of each option depends on where you find yourself trying to grow. An operation trying to survive a Colorado winter is not going to have the same needs and therefore would not be considering the same options as one operating in the heat of a summer in Arizona….
The industry is coming out of years of hiding in the dark and now we have a chance to help set guidelines and establish best practices and then commit to sharing this knowledge across the community and acting on those best practices to help ensure the sustainable prosperity of our vital industry.
The best way to know if there is something you can do to become more energy efficient is to know exactly how much energy you use and where most of the energy use is coming from. Only then can you accurately determine where you need to be more efficient and start researching how you can do just that. Maybe you notice your energy consumption spikes in the summer months when it’s 102 degrees in Arizona, your plan of action might entail considering better insulation against the elements as opposed to more efficient fans or air conditioners. Once you’ve done the research and chosen an appropriate action you can then track the efficiency of the change as well as map out your return on investment. As cannabis advocates we have to be committed to growing, and growing our industry, with energy efficiency and sustainability as the focal point.
If you have questions about how Guardian Data Systems can help you more efficiently trace and document the true costs of your cannabis business give Guardian Data Systems a call and learn how ROAR can help find hidden profits by managing costs, reducing energy, and leading the way to a healthier industry.