With Floridians voting overwhelmingly in the recent election to allow medical marijuana, the drug seems poised to grow past its recreational roots into big business for the state. For smart growers, solar energy will come along for the ride.
In 2015, President Obama and the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. As a result, cities are working to reduce their carbon footprint. With licensed marijuana growers typically cultivating their products indoors under bright lights and tons of electricity, the push to reduce power consumption extends to them.
Lower costs with solar energy
Electricity usage increased by 1.2 percent across the city and county of Denver between 2012 and 2013 after marijuana was legalized in Colorado in 2012. Half of that uptick was due to commercial marijuana grows. While Denver marijuana grows still only used a small percentage (1.85%) of the city’s overall electricity, the growth was concerning given the city’s goal to keep total energy from rising above 2012 use levels.
According to an article in the Colorado Public Radio News, one 10,000-square-foot growing warehouse owned by Colorado Harvest Company was running up a $12,000 monthly electric bill in 2015. Why so much? The dozens of plants are growing 24 hours a day under 22 1,000-watt lamps with an air-conditioning system preventing the lights from overheating. Other facilities have reported nearly twice that amount in monthly charges.
In terms of the environment, Bloomberg states that the facilities in the 23 states where marijuana is legal are responsible for greenhouse-gas emissions almost equal to those of every car, home and business in New Hampshire. According to an independent study by Dr. Evan Mills, indoor growing operations in 2012 posted at least $6 billion a year in energy costs (accounting for 1% of all electricity in the United States), compared with $1 billion for pharmaceutical companies.
The contention of many is that economic growth does not necessarily have to mean greater energy demands. Utilizing solar panels is a good means of achieving a reduction in energy consumption (as well as cost savings) in the marijuana growing process.
How many Florida marijuana growers will utilize solar panels to power their efforts remains to be seen, but it’s clear that those focused on minimizing energy costs and reducing their carbon footprint will consider going solar as a strategic initiative.