Solar technology may be just what the indoor cannabis cultivation scene needs to continue evolving.
Despite advancements in the industry, indoor cannabis cultivation remains a notoriously expensive and environmentally-taxing method of producing cannabis. According to research conducted by Visual Capitalist, the indoor legal cannabis industry consumed over one million megawatt hours of electricity and released nearly half-a-million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2017. Since then, these numbers have grown exponentially as more legal cannabis operations have come online. From these figures, we see that the indoor cannabis industry is in desperate need of a game changer or two if it wants to evolve into an industry that is cost effective and sustainable.
Fortunately, the solar energy industry has been advancing rapidly over the past decade and may offer some help for indoor growers.
Reducing Power Costs
Metal halide (MH) and high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights are often used for indoor cultivation but they require an immense amount of power. The heating and cooling requirements for indoor cannabis cultivation are also energy intensive. According to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, indoor grow operations with high-powered lighting need approximately 360 kilowatt hours per every 25 square feet of space.
Although powering an entire indoor operation with solar technology is a huge undertaking that many growers may not be in a position to implement, growers could use solar energy to help power less power-hungry systems, such as water pumping, drying, and CO2 systems. Doing so would take a bite out of the annual energy bill and reduce the carbon footprint of any indoor operation. The return on investment in the long haul for converting as much of one’s energy needs as is possible to solar is worth considering.
Light-Emitting Diode Lighting Systems
Light-emitting diode (LED) lights require much less power than MH and HPS lights and can be powered by solar energy systems, which is beneficial to any operation’s overhead costs and the environment. LEDs also provide tailored-wavelength lighting, which mimics the natural light of the sun and greatly benefits plants grown indoors. Some growers may believe that LEDs aren’t capable of delivering the amount of photons necessary to produce high-yielding crops. However, the current state of LED technology has significantly evolved, and LED technology can, in fact, match and out-perform the yield and quality of MH and HPS lights.
Indoor cultivation will continue growing as the cannabis industry evolves. High energy costs and increasing carbon footprints are inescapable problems that will come from this growth. Fortunately, the solar industry is evolving to a point where solar panels are becoming more efficient and capable of reducing the grid requirements of indoor cultivators. Operations that can integrate solar technology into their infrastructures will not only save money over time but will also become more environmentally responsible businesses.