Marijuana growers in Denver, Colorado, are responsible for nearly half of the city’s growth in power consumption, and they’re making it tough for the city to meet its energy efficiency goals.
The state’s marijuana grow houses, many of which are located in Denver, are using as much as 200 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, according to a report published by The Denver Post. In Denver alone, the 354 growing facilities used about 121 kWh of electricity in 2013, an increase of 35 million kWh, or 35%, over 2012.
The surge in power use is complicating Denver’s efforts to cap consumption at 2012 levels, and city officials sought guidance earlier this month from the U.S. Department of Energy at a forum in nearby Golden, Colorado.
“It’s a big issue for us,” said Sonrisa Lucero, described by The Post as a strategist. “We really do need some assistance in finding some good technology.”
The irony is that assistance could be coming from the federal government, which considers marijuana illegal under federal law despite its acceptance for medicinal use in nearly half the states in the country and recreational use in several others, including Colorado. Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr said the government would “promote best practices and provide technical help though an Office of Technology Transitions,” the newspaper said.
Plants need lots of light
Jeffrey Ackermann, director of the state’s Energy Office, told The Post Colorado’s energy use has been increasing by 1% to 2% a year, partly in response to a growth in population. The increased number of growing houses is a contributor.
Plants cultivated indoors need artificial light in order to stimulate growth, and the lights produce a lot of heat, which in turn ramps up the demand for air conditioning.
One possible answer are adjustable light-emitting diodes, which don’t produce as much heat as conventional bulbs. Grow houses that installed them could lower their demand for AC, and cut energy use. Tests are underway to see if the LEDs can be deployed without harming the plants, a spokesman for the utility Xcel said.
Citing a study by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, UtilityDive.com said the electricity needed to grow a module of four plants is about the same as what’s needed to run 29 refrigerators.
Last year, Boulder County, Colorado, just to the west of Denver began imposing a 2.16 cents per kWh surcharge on pot growers to help offset greenhouse gas emissions for which they were responsible.