The future of energy consumption limitations: What growers need to know about the law
We know of a number of national cannabis specifiers who are compensated by building growing facilities that come in under budget. They do this in part by using old technology like HPS grow lights and not LED grow lights. But while they do this, they are also very much aware of coming energy consumption limitations in their state.
The future of cannabis grow operations lies in LED lighting because it is simply more efficient – and with energy consumption limitations just around the corner in most states that have legalized cannabis, these national growers know that time is running out. And they are currently looking into how to incorporate LED lighting into his grow facility plans.
The writing, as they say, is on the wall in regards to energy consumption limitations.
Some states, like Massachusetts and Illinois, already have energy consumption limitations. In Massachusetts, for example, growers with facilities 10,000 square feet or larger can only use 36 watts per square foot. Smaller growers have a limit of 50 watts per square foot.
There is also governance for growers using renewable energy sources. Commercial growers who get 100% of their energy from places other than the grid, have no limits to how much energy they can consume.
And in Illinois, recreational and medical cannabis growers have to meet certain standards for energy and water usage. Under the law, growers in Illinois must use automatic watering systems and limit the amount of runoff water that’s produced. They also have to collect and filter wastewater so it can be reused. Growers are also limited to no more than 36 watts per square foot (so, similar to Massachusetts) but the Illinois law goes a bit further, stating that growers must use high-efficiency lights approved by a non-profit group.
California, Colorado and New York are also considering energy consumption limitations for cannabis grow facilities.
So, our national growers don’t use HPS grow lights in states like Illinois and Massachusetts, but in other states, he does because in the short term, they save thousands of dollars over LED lights.
Even though there is currently no federal law on energy consumption limits due to cannabis growing facilities – this is mostly due to the fact that in the eyes of the federal government, cannabis is still illegal – there are some pieces of pending legislation that could impact cannabis growers.
One such bill, H.R. 3884, is to decriminalize cannabis. While this doesn’t directly impact energy consumption limitations, it opens the door to them if it passed. This bipartisan bill, The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, passed the House and is pending in the Senate.
But how will making cannabis legal impact energy usage laws? The answer is quite simple: Growing cannabis indoors uses a lot of energy. Some estimates indicate that indoor cannabis cultivation costs are about $5 billion annually.
And that puts a lot of strain on an already strained electrical grid – which means the federal government is interested in finding ways to cut that usage.
Cannabis growers, for the most part, want to cut energy costs too. This is what is driving the switch to LED grow lights and moving growing facilities out of warehouses where artificial light is needed 100% of the time to greenhouses and outdoor cultivation, where supplemental light (otherwise known as the sun) can be used to cut energy bills.
But big cannabis growers aren’t the only issue here. In states that allow commercial cultivation, it can certainly be an issue but some states permit residential cultivation of cannabis, meaning those who grow their own are also using a considerable amount of energy – the equivalent of more than two dozen refrigerators.
Besides passing legislation on energy consumption, some states offer incentives for growers who use less energy – including rebates, incentives and other programs to entice growers to cut usage. One of those ways is by switching to LED grow lights.
Cannabis is a growing industry that is gaining ground in many states. In 2020 alone, the legal arm of the industry made more than $17 billion.
And while growers have typically been slow to embrace energy-efficient technology like LED grow lights in favor of older technology HPS lights, there are signs that that is changing. The long game, as seen by our national cannabis grower, is in energy efficiency – and that is LED lights.
The Key Takeaway
The legal cannabis industry is growing and will continue to grow – especially if it becomes legal at the federal level. It’s also at the center of concerns about energy, economics, climate and more – meaning there is much to watch and learn now, as it is still very much in its infancy. There will be more energy consumption limitations to come, as things grow and change.
The indoor cultivation of cannabis consumes a lot of resources: Mainly, electricity and water. As the industry grows, so will the government’s interest in regulating these issues.