It wasn’t long ago that few would have thought commercial marijuana greenhouses in the US would ever exist.
Remarkably, things have changed rapidly.
With the legalization of marijuana in many US states, commercially growing cannabis has become a booming industry.
Marijuana greenhouses are becoming established in every state that has legalized the use of cannabis. These greenhouses are sophisticated and run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
And with that level of marijuana growing and production, the power demands are substantial. A marijuana greenhouse needs to maintain the proper environment for efficient crop growth. This environment includes extensive use of lighting and climate controls.
Not surprisingly, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported that power utilities in many states experience blackouts that are linked to marijuana production facilities soon after the states legalize cannabis for recreational use.
The electricity consumption of a marijuana greenhouse
The power consumption of cannabis greenhouses is mind-boggling when compared to typical residential or commercial energy use. In Denver, which is well ahead of the curve for commercial marijuana production and harvest, an average 5000-square-foot indoor commercial marijuana greenhouse used about 42,000 kilowatt-hours per month in 2015. Compare that to a home of about the same size in the same area that used about 600 kilowatt-hours over the same time period.
Some environmental reports suggest that in states where marijuana is legalized, as much as 3% of the state’s electricity use is contributed to cannabis production.
With the demand for energy comes drawbacks
With such a high demand for energy to power marijuana greenhouses also comes a handful of limitations.
The environmental controls in the growing environment must be carefully maintained. Whether growing recreational or medical marijuana, in order to produce a high-quality product, the cannabis plant needs at least 12 hours of light per day, light deprivation could mean a lost crop. Humidity levels must also be carefully monitored in order to efficiently grow the marijuana plants.
Unlike outdoor grows, greenhouse growing and indoor growing methods completely rely on supplemental lighting and air cooling or heating. Power outages for an extended period of time could destroy a crop.
Marijuana facilities need to carefully consider their business continuance plans for energy production. Having standby and emergency onsite power has become a requirement rather than an option for many commercial facilities.
Further, with such high demand for power the associated cost to the utility. Staggering electric bills have become the norm for marijuana greenhouse owners. To help offset those bills, many greenhouses are considering the implementation of Combined Heat and Power, also known as CHP.
CHP or energy and heat cogeneration is an efficient and environmentally conscious alternative to traditional power generation. The EPA defines CHP as the onsite, simultaneous production of electricity and heat from a single fuel source.
CHP systems provide less expensive heat and electricity, they are more efficient, and they reduce pollutants in the air by capturing the “waste heat” lost by conventional power generation and then recycling it to create chilled water, hot water, or steam.
How EnergyChoice can help commercial marijuana greenhouse owners and operators
Energy Choice offers 500kW, 1MW, 1.5MW, and 2MW “power plant in a box” solutions that are ideal for distributed generation or CHP projects.
Our systems are fully containerized and our team works closely with the project developers and engine end users to take a holistic approach to power generation. This results in both reduced project implementation time and life cycle costs.
These solutions are perfect for cannabis greenhouses that need emergency and backup power options. Moreover, with the ability to satisfy Combined Heat and Power requirements, EnergyChoice can help reduce the operational costs for greenhouses of any size.