Sarah Ratliff, Author, Big Buds Mag
Most cannabis producers would consider themselves ecologically responsible. They strive for sustainability by embracing organic grow practices whenever they can. They take pride in supplying a natural product that comes directly from the earth.
Even those who aren’t thinking about sustainability will at least pay it lip service. They know that the environmentally aware crowd is well represented among cannabis consumers and advocates. Eco-conscious investors are increasingly including cannabis stocks in their green portfolios.
There is a natural convergence of interests between the cannabis industry and environmentalism. But in an era when concern over climate change dominates the environmental agenda, indoor cannabis growers are wildly out of step.
Indoor cannabis facilities have a substantial carbon footprint; it’s believed that such grow operations are the most energy-intensive agricultural enterprises in the world. This is significant because all of the cannabis grown in Puerto Rico as well as 63 percent of the cannabis commercially grown in the United States is grown indoors, and another 20 percent is grown partially indoors in mixed-light/greenhouse-style facilities.
If the cannabis industry is serious about sustainability, it must seek out and embrace the possibilities offered by renewable energy. Solar energy in particular could make a substantial difference to the way cannabis growing facilities impact the environment.
A solar-powered indoor cooling system developed by Arizona-based SunTrac is another innovation that can help cannabis growers save money on electricity. SunTrac panels can cut the electricity needs of a rooftop air conditioner by 30 to 40 percent, which is significant since half the electricity used by indoor facilities is spent on climate modification (heating, cooling, ventilation and dehumidification).
Another way indoor growing facilities can integrate solar energy systems is to install them as a source of backup power.
“If you lose power for a day, you could lose $1 million,” Campbell estimates in reference to the largest grow facilities. “Backup power is worth a true amount of dollars in the cannabis industry.”
Combined with battery banks for storage when the sun is not shining, a solar backup system would be cleaner, more reliable and ultimately less expensive than diesel generators.
The possibilities of combining solar technology with cannabis growing are only beginning to be explored. As the research and development advances, the potential for money- and energy-saving applications is likely to expand dramatically.