Keilah Keiser   |   December 19, 2018

Harnessing Off-Grid Grow Technologies for Cannabis

Energy consumption is a significant concern for cannabis cultivation. Off-grid technology may lead the green industry to alternate solutions.
Keilah is a content marketer and freelance writer with a background in SEO. She has written and produced content for a variety of clients in industries ranging from travel to business to cannabis.

It’s no secret cannabis is an incredibly power-hungry plant. If you ask any grower, they’ll be quick to tell you the electric bill is one of their most substantial costs. Plants require intense light for much of a day. In a vegetative state, they need 18 hours of light a day — 12 hours when they flower. Fans constantly churn to keep the plants from getting too hot under the bright lights and dehumidifiers, along with a host of other elements, run around the clock to create the perfect ecosystem.

Going off grid used to have one major selling point: illegal growers were less likely to get caught by astronomical energy bills. But as more states jump on board with legalization, the intention of off-grid growing changes, the demand for marijuana skyrockets and so does the cost of energy and strain on our grid system. Going off-grid now can affect a grower’s bottom line, offering benefits that can’t be ignored.

  • Decreased energy bills
  • Protection from rising electricity rates
  • Reduced risk of blackouts and lost crops
  • Lower carbon footprint

Outdoor vs. Indoor

How certain growing methods work is key to understanding what kind of off-grid technology is applicable for an operation. Marijuana cultivation facilities fall into three categories: indoor, outdoor and light deprivation.

Outdoor

Outdoor cannabis farms have long been a way for growing operations to exist off-the-grid while including virtually no overhead. However, growing outdoors doesn’t come without its hurdles, particularly, the vulnerability to weather. Heavy winds, fire, and early freezes present a unique set of challenges that can compromise a crop overnight.

Indoor

Outdoor may be a no-brainer when it comes to growing off the grid, but indoor crops yield the highest quality product. Most growers turn to indoor operations because they fetch a premium over outdoor product, controlled conditions create more product per grow, and there’s the ability to produce year-round. The downside —  indoor electric needs can use nearly half of a crop’s wholesale price.

Light Deprivation

Light deprivation or “light dep” is a way for growers to harness the benefits of both indoor and outdoor growing, making this an ideal method for cultivating cannabis. Light dep setups allow for both natural light and artificial overhead lighting, fans, and other temperature controls to produce a harvestable crop.

Types of Off-Grid Grow Technologies

1. Solar

Solar power one of the best options for growing cannabis off-the-grid. Indoor marijuana operations require an incredible amount of electricity to power the facility, and even outdoor grows use electric power for irrigation and security. So, it makes sense to harness solar panels as a way for growers to become electrically independent.

Two of the Tesla Batteries, have the potential to save a medium size cannabis grow business roughly $13,500 in electricity costs a year. Savings aside, there are a couple of ways these batteries help growers:

  • Storing electricity generated by solar power for around the clock use
  • A backup power source in case of a power outage

2. Wind

Wind turbine utilization is much more cost effective when compared to solar panels. When it comes to efficiency, position and location are critical to optimizing energy output. Wind speeds vary massively, so proper placement is key to making sure enough energy is obtained to power a grow room and keep plants healthy.

Finding an excellent location on available land can be a hurdle for growers. Additionally, since the size of wind turbines draws attention, discretion is difficult.

3. Hydropower

Although we typically think of hydropower in the form of giant dams and commercial power generation, growers who have access to a source of running water on their property might consider micro-hydropower. This off-grid technology works when a portion of the flowing water gets diverted into a conveyance, and then delivered to a waterwheel. When the water hits the blades of the wheel, it converts the flow of the water into rotational energy. An alternator or generator then converts the energy into electrical current and can be used to power the needs of a grow house.

Hydropower is an option for small operations and works for growers using hydroponics. The possibility of a hydropower system will vary greatly depending on both the distance from the water source and how many kilowatts generated.

Off-grid grow technologies don’t come without an initial and steep investment. Financing, especially with solar can be a significant hurdle since many cannabis operations are relatively green and still in the survival stages. Often, initial investments and a 10-year payback isn’t top of mind for growers. However, with time these off-grid grow technologies can flourish and pave new roads for the cannabis industry.

 

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