Most States Legalizing Marijuana Have Yet to Grapple with Energy Demand

Oregon, Massachusetts and Illinois are among states taking steps to regulate energy use, according to a new report

This Monday, May 20, 2019 photo shows a mature marijuana plant beginning to bloom under artificial lights at Loving Kindness Farms in Gardena, Calif. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Cannabis cultivation in the United States this year will consume 1.8 million megawatt-hours of electricity, about as much as the nation’s 15,000 Starbucks stores.

And next year it’ll be even more, according to a report from analytics firm New Frontier Data estimating just how much power it takes to produce the nation’s cannabis crop.

Yet even as they’ve welcomed it into the regulatory foldstates legalizing cannabis so far have done little to limit or even track the huge amounts of energy needed to grow it indoors. Among the 11 states to permit recreational use of cannabis, only Massachusetts and now Illinois, which did so this week, have included energy-efficiency standards for indoor cultivation, a practice that requires nearly nonstop use of lights and various heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

One other state, Oregon, requires simply that growers estimate and then report back on their energy use. Even this small step will help regulators there and in other states to better manage an industry whose electricity demand has long been kept as hidden as its product, says report co-author Derek Smith of Resource Innovation Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes resource conservation in the cannabis industry.

“This is critically important, and every state should consider that,” Smith told FairWarning. “This industry has very little data historically because growers were concerned about sharing information about how they were using energy because they were hiding from the law.”

The report’s estimate of massive power demand includes only the legal stuffboth medical and recreational. Add in illicit production–some of it likely to become legal as more states authorize pot growing–and electricity use nearly triples.

Meanwhile electricity use also continues unchecked in most cannabis-legal states including California, the world’s largest cannabis market and producer of the majority of the nation’s crop. Its Bureau of Cannabis Control won’t begin asking cultivators for data on energy use until 2022, and hold them to statewide standards for renewable energy starting in 2023.

“It’s a marathon,” says Josh Drayton of the California Cannabis Industry Association, a trade group. “But the more that these issues get brought to the table, the more involvement from energy suppliers and from the industry, the more data and research that can be put out there — that’s really what’s necessary to bring change.”

Using data reported privately by 81 cultivators in nine states, the report’s authors calculated that among the three main methods of cannabis cultivation, indoor accounts for at least 60 percent of all electricity use.

Greenhouse cultivation, which requires less lighting but still involves heating, cooling and ventilation, consumes about 37 percent of the total. Outdoor farming represents the remainder, less than 3 percent.

The authors estimate it takes 18 times more power to grow a gram of cannabis indoors than outdoors. Yet for a variety of reasons including quality control, safety and security concerns, and nuisance issues related to odors and nighttime lighting, outdoor cannabis cultivation isn’t ideal everywhere, says Beau Whitney, a senior economist with New Frontier Data.

Massachusetts is one of those places, due in part to its climate and population density. But state regulators still encourage outdoor growing through discounted license fees for the express purpose of reducing energy demand, notes Sam Milton of Climate Resources Group, a Boston-based consulting firm that has partnered with Resource Innovation Institute.

For indoor growers, Massachusetts’ rules cap power use on lighting at 36 watts per square foot of plant canopy, or 50 watts per square foot for smaller operations.

In Illinois the new law signed this week by GovJ.B. Pritzker, is even stricter, applying the limit of 36 watts per square foot to all indoor farms, regardless of size.

Both states effectively prohibit the use of any lighting technology that draws more power than efficient light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, Milton says. Though more expensive than standard high-pressure sodium lamps, LEDs last longer and can reduce electricity usage by 40 percent.

The two states also have energy-reporting requirements similar to Oregon’s.

The emerging industry is already confronted with a patchwork of state-level regulations governing pesticides and other potential contaminants including metals, microbes, and solvent residues. In the case of electricity use, Milton says he believes a better alternative will be for the U.S. Department of Energy to aid the industry in developing new standards and efficiency measures.

“These facilities are so energy-intensive, and they’re proliferating, and they’re largely unregulated. I see that sector as something that really needs a lot of attention,” he says. “Without the feds coming in and providing that overarching support, it’ll have to be a state-by-state basis, which is kind of clumsy.”

This story was originally written &  produced by FairWarning (, a nonprofit news organization based in Southern California that focuses on public health, consumer, job safety and environmental issues.

Mitigating and minimizing Energy Loss In Your Greenhouse


As energy costs continue to rise, growers to need to know what their options are to help reduce energy inefficiencies to grow healthy crops and maximize their profits.

Solar power, also known as photovoltaic (PV) systems, LED lights (light-emitting diode) and infrared heaters are all some of the technologies being looked at as ways to reduce greenhouse energy costs. But the first step in any investment is to reduce any existing energy inefficiencies in your greenhouse.

Manage the temperature based on the crop and finish date. Do you grow the crop cooler for a longer period of time or warmer for a shorter period of time? It saves energy to grow at a warmer temperature for a shorter time.

Close air leaks. Seal vents, doors and fan openings with weather stripping, and cover exhaust fan openings when not in use. Fix any tears in the poly and replace any cracked or missing glass panes. Close up those leaky spots in the greenhouse. You don’t want energy savings to go out of the door or out of the poly.

Horizontal air flow fans help mix the air in the greenhouse and can help keep temperatures uniform. The fans also mix the humidity and CO2. Consistent air temperature throughout the crop will ensure the crop grows as uniformly as possible.

Install infrared (IR), anti-condensate poly film. The IR film treatment lets sunlight in but traps the radiant heat inside the greenhouse. The anti-condensate treatment reduces the surface tension on the poly allowing condensation to flow down the poly and not form droplets. You don’t have as many drops of condensation on the underside of the poly. The droplets can block sunlight, drip on plants and workers, create an environment conducive for pathogens and create safety issues such as slippery algae on the floor.

Use photoperiodic lighting on long-day plants. Long-day plants flower when the dark hours fall below their critical photoperiod. Properly timed supplemental lighting can artificially reduce the number of nighttime hours. You use photoperiodic lighting to induce flowering. The goal is to grow a quality plant as fast as you can.

Incandescent lamps alternating with compact fluorescent lamps are effective for stimulating flowering of long-day plants. LED lights can also be used to regulate flowering by photoperiodic lighting, but choose the LED lights carefully. LED lights are a major investment and there are many LED lamps available. Their light spectrum varies and sometimes causes confusion on how to use them. You need to be careful about what you’re using.

Use high-intensity light on young plants. High-intensity lights are most economical for growing young plants because you have so many plants per square foot.

Transplant larger plugs and liners. Plants in larger plug trays take less time to finish growth, but larger plugs do cost more.

Use more energy-efficient heaters. Some heat is always lost with the exhaust gases, but more energy efficient heaters lose less. The most efficient heaters for greenhouses have up to 96% thermal efficiency.

Insulate side, knee and end walls. Whenever the temperature in the greenhouse is different than the outside air, heat energy will move through the structure materials from the warm side to the cool side.

Install retractable energy curtains. The curtains shade the crop on sunny days in the spring and summer and keep heat in the greenhouse at night during the winter. Installing energy curtains isn’t going to be profitable in every situation. If you start growing in March, you’re probably not going to need one. If you’re growing in the winter to get plants to market in March, they are very cost effective.

Install more energy efficient lamps. LED lamps continue to improve and lamps with a photosynthetic photon efficacy (μmol×J–1) of greater than two are available. Make sure to ask about that efficacy number prior to purchasing lamps.

Install in-floor heat to increase substrate temperature and to decrease air temperature. You can lower your air temperature and increase your substrate temperature if you have root zone heating.

Use environmental control systems. They’re more responsive and growers don’t have to manually alter the environment several times a day.

For growers who want to consider solar, consider getting an energy audit to assess your system. That’s where you want to start.

Most public utilities and electric cooperatives offer free energy audits, but they are not the type 2 audits. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers defines three levels of energy audits types 1, 2 and 3 with the larger numbers having greater detail and accuracy.

Type 2 audits are required to participate in the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

EQIP provides funding up to 75% of the cost of eligible projects that increase energy efficiency. REAP provides grants up to 25% of the total eligible project cost and loan guarantees for up to 75% of the total eligible project cost to purchase or install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. Now is a good time to get into a renewable energy and we would like to partner with you to evaluate your operation for energy efficiency & renewable energy.

How Much Electricity Does It Take To Grow Marijuana? Colorado Cities Are Finding Out

Colorado’s appetite for lighting up requires a lot of lights, it turns out.Licensed marijuana growers traditionally cultivate their products indoors under very bright lights that suck a lot of electricity. With the release of the federal government’s Clean Power Plan looming, cities across the state are working to reduce their carbon footprint. Part of those efforts include persuading grows to reduce their power consumption.

Between 2012 and 2013, the latest data available, electricity use increased by 1.2 percent across the city and county of Denver. Commercial marijuana grows were responsible for nearly half of that uptick.

“We’re very keen to see what is increasing energy use, and to have half of that coming from the grow industry is definitely something we pay attention to,” said Sonrisa Lucero, a strategist for the Denver’s Office of Sustainability.

Denver marijuana grows used just 1.85 percent of the city’s overall electricity in 2013. But any uptick matters because the city set a voluntary goal to prevent total energy consumed from rising past its 2012 use levels. Lucero’s job is to make sure that energy efficiency is top of mind for new residents and businesses.

The city is working with marijuana grow operations to lower their electricity use. Or the industry may sort itself out: A growing number of outdoor and greenhouse grow operations in Colorado are emerging that could make indoor grows obsolete — or at least, less cost effective.

A $12,000 electricity bill

Colorado Harvest Company’s Flower Room No. 1 holds dozens of green plants thriving underneath 22 1,000-watt lamps.

(Nathaniel Minor/CPR News)

To understand just how much energy it takes to grow marijuana indoors, look no further than Colorado Harvest Company’s Flower Room No. 1.The room has dozens of green plants thriving underneath 22 1,000-watt lamps hanging from the ceiling. Each is the size of a small card table. An air-conditioning system prevents the lights from overheating.

“Running a cannabis company with indoor production means that you’re going to use more than your fair share of electricity,” said Tim Cullen, the company’s owner.

Cullen’s monthly electricity bill for the 10,000-square-foot warehouse runs a cool $12,000. Another marijuana grow reports spending nearly twice that amount. Cullen said he’s tried to reduce electricity use by using LED lights currently on the market, but they haven’t produced the results he needs.

“We just can’t suffer the losses of having a lower energy bill, but then not producing flowers,” he said.

Tim Cullen, the owner of the Colorado Harvest Company, stands in his grow facility in Denver on Wednesday, July 8, 2015.

(Nathaniel Minor/CPR News)

New LED technology under production could change this picture. But Cullen isn’t waiting for that to happen. Instead he’s building a greenhouse in Denver to commercially grow marijuana. From start to finish, the planning and construction is expected to take about six months.

Greenhouses blooming in Pueblo

Denver has about four commercial marijuana grow greenhouses. But Pueblo is leading the charge in the state, with 16 and counting. Some are small, but others cover as many as 50 acres.

Chris Markuson, director of economic development and GIS for Pueblo County, said shifting priorities are changing how and where marijuana is grown.

“At first the assumption was that the grow operations had to be tightly secured and hidden from public view,” he said. “Because the temperament of the community–and the society as a whole–has come around a little bit, the grow operations are not really seen with negative light. At least they’re not in Pueblo.”

It helps that Pueblo has marketed itself as a business-friendly lower-cost location to cultivate marijuana.

With about 30 marijuana grow businesses overall, Markuson said the majority are using “Pueblo sunshine” to grow product.

Energy use in the area is evolving with the industry. According to Black Hills Energy, which provides power to the city of Pueblo and parts of Pueblo County, 10 grow facilities used 2.1 million kWh in 2014. That’s 0.1 percent of the energy that Black Hills delivered to its Pueblo coverage area.

Laying the groundwork

As the marijuana industry evolves, Colorado cities are deciding how–or if–they want to manage the growing energy demands from the industry.

Denver isn’t considering regulations for the marijuana industry, but pushing LED lights to grows. In Boulder, the city and county are setting measures to require businesses offset their electricity use via subscription of renewable energy credits — things like community solar garden memberships.

Xcel is reportedly working with marijuana growers to update lighting so they’re as energy efficient as possible.

The attempts by utilities and cities fit into a larger movement under way right now, said Howard Geller with Boulder-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project.

“We can have that economic growth without electricity use increasing,” he said. “That’s going to be beneficial economically and that will help us achieve our environmental goals.”

Denver and Boulder’s work with marijuana and other businesses could be a good warm-up lap for what’s to come. The Clean Power Plan rule, expected to be finalized later this summer, will put even more pressure on states to reduce carbon emissions. Some of that reduction will come from changing where our power comes from. But Geller expects another significant portion to come from things like switching out the lightbulbs.

“Energy efficiency is a strategy that can be implemented very quickly in terms of ramping up rebate and financing programs, education efforts,” said Geller. “Whereas building new power plants–or retrofitting old power plants–that kind of initiative will take years to implement.”

This article was originally published on July 10 2015 by BY GRACE HOOD of Colorado Public Radio

Measuring your energy performance to mitigate the threat of cost pressures and regulations

Sustainability is a broad topic with deep engagement in a variety of industries, though it is a relatively new conversation in cannabis. That said, in today’s rapidly scaling and globalizing market, intelligent cannabis investors and operators are beginning to contemplate how sustainability can add value to their ventures.

Personally, after two decades of sustainability experience in a variety of industries, I prefer the term “resource efficiency” over sustainability because it is more clear and ties directly to the bottom line.

With impeccable timing given the state of today’s competitive market, Arcview hosted the first major cannabis investor discussion on sustainability a few weeks ago in San Francisco. I was honored to speak alongside Emily Paxhia of Poseidon, Frederick Schilling of Klersun and Francis Priznar of Arcview.

The Arcview speakers borrowed from their experiences in other sectors as they laid out the reasons why sustainability—or resource efficiency—matters in cannabis:

  • Mitigating cost pressures through improving the efficiency of operations
  • Enabling brand differentiation in a crowded marketplace
  • Protecting the industry’s reputation (i.e., ensuring the entire sector is not tarnished by the image of inefficient indoor energy hogs that disrupt electricity grids)
  • Attracting investor interest
  • Enhancing valuation
  • Getting ahead of oncoming regulations on natural resource use (Massachusetts recently mandated use of LED lighting in indoor grows and California will soon be writing its rules setting targets on efficiency and renewables.)

One question from the audience, while seemingly simple, was particularly insightful and generated an inspired response from the panel. “How do you get started on a sustainability journey?”

The responses essentially advised:

  1. Evaluate your business activities
  2. Take an inventory of your natural resource impacts
  3. Dive into the process of determining how to reduce one of your significant line items
  4. Take the savings you mined and plow them into additional profit-maximizing activities

Energy expenses generally range from 25 to 50 percent of an overall cost structure of a cultivation operation that incorporates controlled environments (indoor or greenhouse). I recommend starting there. We at the non-profit Resource Innovation Institute created a free, peer-reviewed energy benchmarking tool called the Cannabis PowerScore to point the way to an efficient industry future.

More than 100 cultivation facility operators have contributed data about their energy consumption, technology use and production output. In return, they receive an instant benchmark that compares their energy performance to their peers, while identifying operational weak points and resources to drive energy savings. All farm-identifiable data is kept confidential.

Resource Innovation Institute then uses the aggregate, anonymous data to inform governments, utilities and manufacturers how to shape policies, incentives and R&D to drive conservation and establish industry standards. In essence, we are playing a role much like the federal government does with the Energy Star label.

It’s critical that industry leaders take an initial step toward sustainability not just for their own benefit, but also to enable the industry to establish baselines and figure out the most efficient pathways forward so that geographies know how to compete in the global marketplace. We need to move away from our history of secrecy and elevate crowdsourced best practices.

We can only do this through objective analysis of data. After all, literally no one knows with a significant level of confidence how to optimize efficient techniques and technologies across a range of cultivation settings and climate zones. For example, running an efficient operation in Arizona is vastly different than doing so in Massachusetts.

Last week, we announced that RII will produce a Cannabis Energy Report in partnership with New Frontier Data and Scale Microgrid Solutions. This groundbreaking report will be the definitive guide to support investors, operators, policymakers and others to make decisions on how best to create a profitable, resource efficient future for cannabis. The analysis will be based on the crowdsourced Cannabis PowerScore data.

Start your sustainability journey and get your instant energy performance benchmark by encouraging one of your team members to invest a few minutes engaging with the Cannabis PowerScore. If you participate by August 31, your data will be incorporated into the analysis for the Cannabis Energy Report and will give you the best understanding of how competitive your facility is.

With your valuable input, we can simultaneously chart the best course for industry efficiency and help boost your bottom line.


This article was originally published,




OSRAM Positioned To Be The Leading Horticultural Solutions Provider

Osram, the semiconductor manufacturer, sees horticultural lighting as a big part of their future. Will we see more acquisitions like this soon?

Osram, the semiconductor manufacturer, sees horticultural lighting as a big part of their future. Will we see more acquisitions like this soon?

Merging Semiconductors With Horticultural Applications

Back in May, Osram, a semiconductor manufacturer that specializes in lighting acquired Fluence Bioengineering, a company that specializes in LED grow lights. Fluence started in 2013 and is now up to around 100 employees and made somewhere in the double-digit millions in sales last year. Fluence was already using Osram’s LED chips in their lighting systems, so the acquisition will allow the two companies to have more collaboration on new designs. Osram will be positioned to gain a significant foothold in what they believe will be the biggest market for smart lighting applications.

“Fluence is opening the floodgates to a huge future market… Its extensive knowledge of the horticulture market and possible applications, combined with Osram’s expertise in lighting technologies, sensors and connectivity, will position us as a leading horticultural solutions provider.  -Stefan Kampmann, CTO of Osram


A Facility Using Osram’s Lighting Systems

Vertical Farming And The Future Of Agriculture

Osram cites increasing population and urbanization as the driving factors that will change the landscape of agriculture, creating a need for more efficient farming growing methods that minimize space. Osram also thinks that moving to large-scale urban grow facilities will cut down on the waste and pollution that stems from our current agricultural logistics system. According to their press release, 40 percent of food is spoiled between the producer and the supermarkets it arrives at. Having more farms in urban areas can reduce spoilage attributed to long transport distances. They also hope to cut down on the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and excessive water consumption by keeping plants in a controlled environment.

Furthermore, Osram says that incorporating Fluence’s LED solutions can help growers increase their harvests by 25 percent while reducing energy consumption by up to 50 percent. Considering that indoor cannabis grow facilities alone consume more than 1 percent of the energy in the United States, efficiency will be crucial for the advancement of the urban indoor grow facilities. Osram thinks that the key to such high efficiency is automation, specifically, their IoT platform called Lightelligence, which analyzes sensor data with an algorithm to suggest methods of increasing efficiency. This data can be saved into templates for the optimal growth of certain plants. In the future, Osram hopes to use artificial intelligence to completely automate the growing process.

“In the future, self-learning software algorithms will create and optimize digital plant models in order to cultivate tailor-made salads and herbs for platform partners such as supermarkets, online grocery shops and pharmaceutical companies,” -Stefan Kampmann, CTO of Osram

What Does A Smart Cannabis Grow Facility Look Like?

Although Osram glided over the topic of cannabis in their release, they did reference “medicinal plants” as a market they’re expanding into. Until cannabis is legalized federally, semiconductor companies like Osram will be vague about it to preserve their public perception. After all, if Texas Instruments acquired a company like Fluence, they wouldn’t say “we want to get into the cannabis market and get some of that dank money.”

It is quite obvious that Lightelligence is suited for a high maintenance plant like cannabis. The level of sophistication in automated grow facilities is impressive already, in fact, some facilities, like the one in the video below, can be controlled completely using just a smartphone. Osram hopes to take that even further with Lightelligence.



Osram’s Horticultural LED Development Kit

If Osram’s market predictions prove to be accurate, the time to look into upgrades is now. Osram and partners released their Horticultural LED Development Kit, which is a four-channel, solid-state lighting design that allows developers to mix light in various combinations. The reference design uses simple knobs to adjust the output of light. You can find details about the developer kit below:


This article was originally published via by 

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