Chart of the Week: Breakdown of Energy Use at a Commercial Cannabis Cultivation Site

By Jennifer Mann

With electricity bills for marijuana grow facilities running thousands of dollars a month in some cases, understanding how energy usage breaks down is the starting point to controlling costs.

Just three areas – lighting, air conditioning, and ventilation and dehumidification – comprise almost 80% of total energy costs for an average commercial marijuana grow, according to a study by Evan Mills, who has worked as an energy and environmental systems analyst for the past 30 years.

And while there’s been a lot of industry focus on finding efficient lighting, which eats up 33% of total usage, there’s been less attention on other areas.

With an estimated 2,000 commercial cultivation operations in the U.S. – according to the 2014 Marijuana Business Factbook – and more opening each month, pressure will be on the industry to address its energy needs. Already in Colorado, utilities provider Xcel Energy says about one half of one percent of the energy it generated last year was consumed by marijuana growers.

Some industry watchers predict that if marijuana becomes legal on a federal level, clearing the way for interstate commerce, the bulk of growing will take place outdoors in climates conducive to marijuana growing.

In fact, Ellis Smith, chief development officer for consulting firm American Cannabis Co., told PC Magazine late last year that he expects rising energy needs and the resulting costs will literally push the industry outside in the next eight to 12 years.

Jennifer Mann can be reached at [email protected]

13 comments on “Chart of the Week: Breakdown of Energy Use at a Commercial Cannabis Cultivation Site
  1. bigdaddy on

    How does the dropping price of fuel factor into this? At some point, it would be cheaper to run generators than to pay the increasing electric rates.

  2. Lori Glauser on

    We’re coming out with a study soon that examines these issues. Grid power is almost always cheaper and more reliable than running a generator, even at current gas prices. However, a backup supply to protect their crop in case of outages or sabotage is something to consider. Growers may be able to work with the utility to use that generator to sell power back to the grid during peak times to recoup some investment. The next question many ask is solar power. The high up front capital outlay, long payback time, and high risk makes solar very difficult to get financed. Greenhouses and outdoor grows are the likely future.

  3. Belinda Quiroz on

    Colorado Engineer has developed a resolution that saves up to 60% on power usage for the lighting industry. Local Xcel energy will also give a rebate to switch lights to Aggrow lights. Yes, there are great solutions.

  4. Michael Tiberi on

    Precisely why LEDs are the future for indoor grows. Very little heat generated lowering costs dramatically for AC and little need for dehumidifiers.

  5. Jahpharmer on

    Wow, better than 80% of your energy use (read: costs), is devoted to heating, cooling, and air exchange. I grow in well designed greenhouses using the sun for light, natural breezes for ventilation and temperature control. No! I am not knocking indoor growers, hardly, my hat is off to you for sustaining such nearly Herculean efforts. For over a decade I grew indoors, exclusively, and I realize just how particular you need to be to stay on-top of all the fine tunings necessary to successfully, and repeatedly grow/bloom inside…real labor of love you folks do! However, practicing good cultural controls, using great media, well documented organic foods, good clean water and ample direct sunlight every day is all you need to produce World Class cannabis…look to the Emerald Triangle Cup (only organic, only outdoor), to lead the way educating how-to’s here. Healthy, thriving plants will outgrow any and all pest issues, coupled with a strict IPM program, only while in veg!, will assure you your finished products are more than clean enough to be “medical” quality.
    As an example, YouTube: …or, “End of Bloom Week 7” to see a recent, NorCal greenhouse harvest. Enjoy.

  6. Tony on

    I am looking at starting a business in the mountains in Colorado. Looking at all options currently with Greenhouse being in the forefront. Strictly looking at starting with a cultivation facility currently. I have 10 acres to play with. Thoughts, and or ideas would be greatly appreciated.

  7. Hormoz Mansouri on

    I was wondering if someone can help me with in-door design of growing indoor commercial oil extraction in NYS. Question on size of each space, design recommendation on Lighting LED and HVAC

  8. Lori Glauser on

    Hormoz, Please contact me to discuss your questions about designing cultivation/production facility. We helped attain 8 MME licenses, and provide services to production and cultivation facilities. I am a mechanical engineer, and we also have relationships with LED and HVAC companies and can assist you. Regards, [email protected]

  9. Kevin Stark on

    MSP Technology found that in the enclosed CO2 charged growing facilities we can see electric savings up to 70% on the dehumidification side of climate control. MSP can also reclaim the water taken from the air and put it back into the plants. We have recently done a presentation for the Team Lead Energy Efficiency Engineer at Xcel Energy and his team in Colorado and they were impressed and will offer a rebate for growing facilities in Colorado. I know all will appreciate the energy savings we can provide.
    [email protected]

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