The legalization of cannabis across many states has drawn significant investment. However, growing cannabis indoors requires plenty of electricity. This represents a high operating cost for growers and a burden for the power grid.
Growing cannabis demands that you command full control of the lighting, ventilation, humidity and temperature of your grow space. These systems are found in all commercial buildings, but indoor horticulture has very high energy requirements per square foot. Energy efficiency measures that target these systems are the most effective at saving you money in the long-term.
Benefits of LED Grow Lights
Fluorescent and HID lighting have been the most common options for indoor cannabis growth. However, LED lamps deliver the same lighting output while reducing energy use by up to fifty percent. You also save on air conditioning because LED lamps emit less heat.
LED lighting offers a long service life, saving you many lamp replacements over time. A good number of LED products last for 50,000 hours or more, while most fluorescent and HID lamps last less than 20,000. This is a significant advantage in the cannabis industry, considering the long operating schedule of lighting systems.
LED lighting provides versatility along with efficiency. While fluorescent and HID lamps have a fixed color, LED lamps can be designed with an adjustable lighting color. Consider that indoor crops have different lighting needs for vegetative growth and flowering. A cannabis facility would normally require two different lighting systems, but LED grow lights with an adjustable color can adapt to both roles.
Efficient Temperature and Humidity Control
Cannabis requires a specific temperature and humidity, which in turn demands plenty of energy to run air conditioning and ventilation. Ventilation design requires a special approach, since outdoor air contains substances that are potentially harmful for plants. A direct supply of outdoor air also reduces the carbon dioxide concentration below the ideal level for cannabis.
Ductless air conditioning systems are preferred for cannabis facilities. When high efficiency is a priority, HVAC engineers recommend chilled water systems or variable refrigerant flow (VRF). Mini-split systems are viable for small operations.
These air conditioning systems cool the air at a lower cost than conventional ducted systems while dehumidifying your cultivation space. A cannabis facility has high dehumidification needs because plants increase air humidity.
Using Solar Power in the Cannabis Industry
Solar power can adapt to any building with a suitable surface that is not shaded. Cannabis is often grown in warehouses, which have an ample roof area. Solar panels can capture sunlight that was previously reaching the roof directly, which reduces cooling expenses.
2019 is an excellent year to deploy solar power systems in the United States you will receive a federal tax credit for 30% of their cost. This benefit will be reduced to 26% in 2020 and 22% in 2021, staying at only 10% from 2022 onwards.
Energy efficiency reduces electricity consumption, while solar panels can generate part of that power locally. Together, these measures can minimize the energy footprint of cultivating cannabis.
Michael Tobias is the founder and principal of Chicago Engineers, an Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Company in America. He leads a team of 30+ mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineers from the company headquarters in New York City; and has led over 1,000 projects in Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland and California, as well as Singapore and Malaysia.
A New York native, Michael grew up in Rockville Centre, LI. He currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife and children. Outside of work, he enjoys exploring the outdoors, whether it’s on a bike, a pair of skis, or a surfboard. He is passionate about growing personally and professionally every day, and about doing innovative work in the engineering world to help disrupt the traditional construction industry.