Cannabis Cultivation and Its Large Energy footprint

As cannabis continues to become legal across the United States, some specialists suggest that growers need to make their operations greener. A data analysis firm, released and highlighted the massive energy footprint left by cannabis cultivation along with methods to make production more energy-efficient.

Cannabis production makes up 1% of national electricity use and electricity is the number one expense growers are faced with. Energy costs typically meet or exceed the leasing cost of the growing space per month during production. Data from cannabis industry businesses, government agencies, and consumer studies has been pulled, and the results are distressing. Research suggests that cannabis production in the United States is responsible for the same amount of electricity used by 1.7 million homes. The total cost of energy usage in a cannabis operation is priced at $6 billion yearly.

Close-up of a cannabis plant.
CleanLeaf air scrubber suspended from the ceiling in a growing facility.

Indoor growing offers a multitude of benefits including:

• An extremely clean and hygienic growing environment.
• Controlled climate prevents issues with mold or dried out plants.
• Multiple harvests can be artificially conceived per year equalling more revenue.
• Indoor growing helps prevent pest infestations.

But it also requires a large amount of electricity. Aside from artificial lighting, indoor growing facilities require dehumidifiers, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. What the report is saying, is that it will be unsustainable to attempt to maintain the cost structure that is driven by such high energy usage.

As of now, energy costs are equal to 1/2 of the wholesale prices of marijuana. As wholesale prices fall, energy and total production costs will rise. At this point, it's economically and environmentally essential to use less energy and there are ways to make it happen:

1. Growers can move production outdoors or into greenhouses. However, it's important to note that this depends on environmental conditions, local laws prohibiting outdoor growing, and the risks of using pesticides to protect outdoor marijuana.

2. Installing energy efficient light bulbs. Instead of relying on high-intensity discharge lamps switch to uniquely designed LED lights and induction lights which use magnets to transmit electricity.

3. Evaluating and analyzing energy by installing smart meters to determine where the most energy is being expended.

4. Grow room air filtration scrubs air and removes contaminants. The buildup that settles into dehumidifiers and air conditioning systems makes equipment work harder and requires frequent filter changes. Grow room air scrubbers help prolong HVAC filter life and allow for machinery to run as efficiently as possible.

To find out the approximation of your energy usage, check out this cannabis cultivator calculator provided by The Oregon Department of Energy.

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