Recently, a couple of Denver businesses, including a city adviser on sustainability and an energy engineer joined a Denver Sustainability Panel to talk about how the cannabis industry can find their best practices when it comes to using energy, water, and waste.
Cannabis greenhouses and retail shops usually use use of 24-hour lighting, heating, ventilation systems, and air-conditioning, which often lead to expensive and environmentally irresponsible outputs.
The panel of cannabis and non-cannabis professionals included Amy Andrle, an owner of L’Eagle cannabis farm and dispensary; Emily Backus, the Sustainability Adviser for the City of Denver; Doug Hargrave, of iconergy; and Ben Gelt, of the Organic Cannabis Association.
The panel mentioned these ten areas for sustainability:
- LED lighting
- Motor efficiency
- Variable frequency drives
- Use economizers in air handlers
- HVAC system retrofits
- Automate production equipment – implement precision scheduling
- Demand Response / Load shedding – minimize demand at utility peak times
- Retro-Commissioning of systems
- Solar Photovoltaics – rooftop and or ground mount systems
- Utilities – “all the above” approach to get best ROI
And the demand will only grow as the number of states that legalize recreational marijuana increases.
The panel agrees that without the use of efficient equipment, these facilities will be responsible for vastly increasing greenhouse gas emissions and an intensifying demand on the power grid.
Backus, the Sustainability Advisor for the City of Denver the barriers for these businesses in adopting more sustainable practices:
- The best practices are unknown, or in development
- There’s a historic culture of secrecy in the cannabis space (now diminishing)
- Federal funding barriers
- Distrust of new equipment and technology, due to faulty products marketed in recent years
- Rapid technology development in the space
- Variation in growing techniques and different needs
Legal indoor marijuana grows account for 1 percent of the total electricity use in the U.S., equating to a production of 15 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, according to the panel.
As one of the nation’s most energy intensive industries, it’s an issue that’s important to consider as the sector continues to grow.