Colorado isn’t the best place to grow cannabis outdoors, what with the early falls and cold, dark winters and all. Because of that, medical marijuana dispensaries (and soon recreational dispensaries) grow a large portion of their cannabis indoors.
With that comes the energy costs of running lights, air conditioning and heating and fans, and when you’re talking thousands of square feet it can get expensive quickly. One Denver dispensary says they regularly get $21,000 electricity bills and say competitors are facing monthly energy bills of $100,000 or more.
Dispensary owner John Kocer tells Denver’s CBS4 that his company is part of a growing problem of energy-sucking grows in the area that are only expected to get worse as legal recreational sales begin next year.
A 2011 study showed that the total indoor marijuana cultivation (legal and illegal) in this country sucks about $6 billion in energy each year – enough to fuel 2 million average-sized U.S. homes. In California alone, cannabis cultivation accounts for 3 percent of all electricity use and 8 percent of household use.
The author of the study, Evan Mills of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said at the time that the main way to combat the growing energy problem is for cannabis growers to look at more energy-efficient means of growing, such as greenhouses.
“If improved practices applicable to commercial agricultural greenhouses are any indication, the energy use for indoor cannabis production can be reduced dramatically,” he told the New York Times. “Cost-effective efficiency improvements of 75 percent are conceivable, which would yield energy savings of about $25,000/year for a generic 10-module growing room.”
And greenhouses are catching on. Early last spring more and more started popping up in Denver’s warehouse district as owners ramped up production in part to prepare for legal cannabis sales to adults over 21 at the start of the new year. Kocer says his dispensary added an 18,000 square-foot greenhouse that they say will cut their energy down to about 6 percent of what it was before.
Others are taking a more round-about approach. In Boulder, Colo., grow operations are required to offset their carbon footprint by purchasing renewable energy credits through wind farms or solar arrays. But that pseudo-peace-of-mind also comes with a price tag of about 20 to 22 percent more in overall costs. Boulder City Council members say the moves makes their marijuana “greener”.