Cannabis Cultivation – A Growing Carbon Footprint
THE FOOTPRINT ISSUE
Recent estimates indicate that indoor cannabis cultivation racks up as much as $6 billion each year in energy costs.
Looking at this from the individual perspective, one 1000-watt lighting system driven 12 hours per day can rack up as much as 5,000 kilowatt-hours of energy annually. And, as we know, there are a large and growing number of individuals!
On the grid, a single 1000-watt light source consumes enough energy to produce over 10,000 pounds of CO2 emissions annually. Offsetting the carbon produced by this one light fixture would require the equivalent of planting over one and a quarter acres of trees. Given the fact that thousands of 1,000-watt horticultural lighting systems are being installed each year, the growing carbon footprint related to horticultural lighting, and the challenge to offset it, is fairly daunting.
MARKET GROWTH OUTPACES EFFICIENCY OFFSET
Over the past 20 years, lighting efficiencies have improved significantly. Probe-start metal halide, predominantly used for vegetative growth twenty years ago, has been displaced by more efficient pulse-start metal halide and, more recently, ceramic metal halide. HPS system efficiencies have also improved as the market has moved to more efficient double-end configurations as well as spectrally enhanced lamps. While high in initial cost, LED systems are now being introduced that reduce the carbon footprint per fixture even further.
Unfortunately advances in energy saving technologies are currently not able to offset the escalating energy demand related to cannabis cultivation. According to Arcview Market Research, the cannabis market for North America will grow 500% within the next 10 years ($9.2 billion in 2017 to $47.3 billion). Currently, California is estimated to produce approximately 80% of the US black-market marijuana. But as other states legalize, so will the energy demand within these states.
REGULATIONS WILL ATTEMPT TO CURB GREENHOUSE EMISSIONS
Future regulations are expected to curb energy demand. As an example, Boulder County, Colorado currently spearheads one of the nation’s leading programs designed to incentivize weed producers to cut their power use. The county’s Marijuana Energy Impact Offset Fund, which tacks on a 2.16-cent surcharge for each kilowatt-hour of electricity used by grow facilities, is something of a model for other states and is expected to force changes in technologies and efficiencies.
Good or bad, state incentives are expected to be complimented by federal regulation. It is understood that the DOE is currently reaching out to the industry to better understand options to reduce the energy draw (lighting, HVAC, etc.) related to plant growth operations.