Electricity consumption is a fact of life for indoor cannabis cultivators, but a strategic set-up can reduce the negative impact energy consumption has on both the bottom line and the environment. As the overhead costs for cannabis cultivation facilities rise, increasing energy efficiency without negatively impacting the harvest becomes a critical focus. This guide analyzes how much energy it takes to cultivate cannabis in the typical grow and includes tips on how to reduce waste and keep energy costs down.
To grow cannabis indoors on a commercial scale requires a significant amount of electricity. The typical commercial facility requires between 2,000 and 3,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy per pound of flower and accounts for between 20% and 40% of total production costs, according to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NPCC). As a cannabis cultivation facility scales up, its demand for energy increases, and so too does the electricity and environmental costs associated with energy production.
The average cost of electricity for commercial properties in the U.S. was 11.2 cents per kWh as of December 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Based on the average cost nationwide and the NPCC’s data, a typical cultivation facility could expect to pay between $224 and $336 in electricity costs alone per pound of flower grown.
However, energy costs can vary significantly from state to state and rates are more expensive in many of the states where cannabis cultivators operate. For example, in the Pacific region which includes California, Oregon, and Washington, the average rate was 15.62 cents per kWh — that number was bolstered by an exceptionally high rate in California, where commercial operators could expect to pay 18.44 cents per kWh.
That means in the Pacific energy costs, on average, between $312.40 and $468.60 per pound of cannabis grown, while in California it costs between $368.80 and $553.20 per pound on average. Wasted electricity, directly contributes to reduced profit per pound and forces cultivators to increase costs, making them less competitive in the marketplace.
This demand for energy has a significant environmental cost as well. While renewable sources of energy are expanding in the U.S., the vast majority of electricity remains generated by coal and fossil fuels. Roughly 59% of U.S. electricity production comes from coal and natural gas, according to the EIA, while only 20% comes from renewable energy sources like solar, wind, hydro, biomass, and geothermal. The remaining 20% comes from nuclear power.
Coal and natural gas are associated with the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, making electricity consumption a major driver of climate change. And that’s not the only CO2 produced by the indoor cultivation process, either. According to Smithsonian Mag, the amount of CO2 produced to grow one ounce of cannabis is equivalent to burning between 7 and 16 gallons of gasoline. Reducing the CO2 associated with energy consumption, then, becomes even more important, as indoor cannabis cultivation already represents a major carbon contribution to the atmosphere.
All this is to say nothing of the additional environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation, such as demand for water. Cannabis cultivators who are able to reduce their electricity consumption and keep their operations efficient will save on operational expenses and also enjoy the brand reputation that comes with being responsible environmental stewards.
Fortunately for cultivators, there are steps that could be taken to reduce energy consumption and cut waste while still growing high-quality flower and realizing substantial yields. These four tips can help streamline your operations and make for a more energy-efficient cultivation facility.
Light-emitting diodes have been used to develop energy efficient LED grow lights, for use in grow rooms. LED grow lights are the most efficient type of lighting on the market today. For cannabis cultivators, LEDs offer considerable energy and cost savings over the high-pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs many growers use.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the majority of lighting by 2035 will come from LED installations, which is projected to save 569 Terawatt hours (TWh) annually by that same year — that’s the current annual energy output of 92 1,000 Megawatt (MW) power plants. In the cannabis industry, where cutting electricity costs is critical, LED lights are the obvious choice.
LED lights are also more precise and more efficient than other types of grow lights, allowing cultivators to direct light only where it’s needed. This reduces wasted light or the need for reflectors to redirect scattered photons.
Beyond their ability to reduce energy consumption, LED lights also offer a broader spectrum of colors, including the reds and blues and the appropriate ratios of those colors that cannabis plants need throughout their lifecycle. The best-LED lighting systems can be configured to deliver the optimal light spectrum throughout a plant’s life cycle, so cultivators have to purchase fewer overall fixtures. They also produce less heat than HPS bulbs, helping keep grow rooms at the optimal temperature.
Many lighting fixtures in use today in cultivation facilities rely on individual drivers to deliver the power to the diodes. Unfortunately, this type of lighting is inefficient for controlling lighting throughout the facility as it requires wiring to run from individual analog controllers to each ballast.
TSRgrow’s advanced LED lighting solutions remove the ballasts from the fixture and integrate remote power servers located outside of the grow room and away from the fixtures, TSRgrow LED lighting becomes a platform with unparalleled functionality. TSRgrow remote power servers are a server based platform that allows for full control of the lights with real-time tracking of power consumption with sunrise, sunset and full dimming control. This advanced power flow management puts unparalleled performance in the hands of management, operation, and maintenance. This system is fully integrated for improved agility in lighting control and heat reduction in the growing environment.
Optimizing master recipes means identifying the precise conditions a plant needs to thrive, including the amount of light, nutrients, and water. An optimal master recipe enables cultivators to streamline inputs to ensure that a plant gets exactly what it needs. A master recipe not only helps to ensure plants grow well, yielding high amounts of quality flower, but also that growers don’t give the plant more than it needs, saving costs on all inputs – this includes energy.
The ability to dynamically adjust lighting based on conditions ensures that lights operate only when plants can benefit. For example, if CO2 levels suddenly drop, a plant will be unable to benefit from nutrients and the photons it receives from grow lights. In response, cultivators should reduce or turn off lights until the CO2 levels are adjusted and return to the optimal range. This ensures no energy is wasted when conditions are such that a plant can’t make use of the light for photosynthesis. Instead, lights are only on and directed at plants as needed, reducing overall energy consumption.
TSRgrow offers a connected LED lighting platform that enables cultivators to follow all of the above energy efficiency tips. The centrally powered TOTALgrow Solution combines advanced LED lighting with environmental monitoring software, offering growers real-time data-driven insights, customizable master recipes, and the ability to engage in granular zone control throughout their facilities.
Using GROWHub, cultivators can monitor grow conditions across multiple zones in real-time, relocating sensors throughout the facility as conditions evolve and plants grow. Leveraging known data about cannabis plant genetics and optimal growing conditions, cultivators can easily track changes and respond accordingly, ensuring that energy efficiency stays at the heart of their operations.
If you’re looking for deeper insights into how your plants are growing and where opportunities to reduce energy consumption exist, TSRgrow’s TOTALgrow Solution is for you. Contact a growing specialist today!