Amendment 64 has graced Coloradans with the opportunity to own and run their own grow operations for recreational marijuana. However, with a soaring number of in-home grows, not to mention large-scale operations, massive energy consumption has become an issue in Colorado.
Many growers use high-power lights, which run anywhere from 18 to 24 hours during the vegetative growth stage, and 12 hours during the flowering stage. The sheer amount of light that marijuana crops need is inevitable, but unsustainable methods don’t have to be.
A rise in grow operations that require grow lights, exhaust fans, heaters, and other equipment, undeniably leads to environmental issues. Although traditional grow lights are effective, energy-saving alternatives, such as high-efficiency LED lights, work just as well. LED lights may be more expensive at first, but like solar panels, the longterm amount saved in energy costs makes it well worth it—not only from an economic perspective, but also from an environmental perspective.
In 2015, growers in Boulder, Colorado will have to pay an additional 2.16 cents per kWh on electricity bills, according to USA Today. Since marijuana is a high-margin crop, growers don’t necessarily care to seek a more environmentally-friendly means of growing marijuana. The money invested in the operation will likely be earned back, with additional profits. Despite the notion that growers don’t care about power costs, if growers start to realize how wasteful energy usage impacts the environment, then perhaps they will be more apt to make a change.
Heliospectra (OTCQB: HLSPY, FIRSTNORTH: HELIO) is one lamp alternative that offers an array of intelligent, LED lighting solutions for efficient growth. According to Chris Walker, GM of Heliospectra, “when a grower shifts to the LED lamp, they reduce their energy consumption by 30-50%.”
The standard bulb used by growers is the high-pressure sodium light, which accounts for high energy waste, and thus, added fees. “If there is a single technology that [growers] are the most reluctant to release, it’s the high pressure sodium lamp. Growers are absolutely committed to that lamp. The downside is that their electricity bills could be reduced by half,” Walker added.
As another alternative, growers could take their operation outdoors and grow in greenhouses. Bruce Bugbee, crop physiology professor at Utah State University, states “it’s not hard to see the economic (benefits) of a greenhouse – the sunlight’s free.” He continues: “Eventually (cannabis production) will all just all go outside. Economics will dictate that it’s grown in the most efficient way.”
If Bugbee’s hypothesis is true, Heliospectra is prepared. “We come from the greenhouse world. Our lamp is designed to work very well in a greenhouse,” Walker explained. Heliospectra’s LX602 is an LED grow light that has an optical distribution ideal for greenhouses when the light needs to be mounted in the ceiling at a distance from the plant, while still maintaining a wide, uniform light distribution.
Wherever marijuana production goes, environmental concerns need to go with it. Extra fees in Boulder, Colorado, should serve as a warning for Washington, Alaska, and Oregon, because these regulations may be telling of what is to come in other legal states. Undoubtedly, many growers in Colorado have already spent thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars implementing an environment suitable for the success of growing marijuana.
Many of these indoor operations already have typical high-power lights running, so it may be difficult to just swap the light source midway through a plant’s growth cycle. Nevertheless, growers should certainly consider LED alternatives before they begin their next production cycle.
Growing marijuana is an investment, and the quality and quantity of the yield heavily depends upon the quality of light. By making the switch to LEDs, growers will cut down on energy costs and energy waste, while also helping the industry mature.