Recent studies on the electrical usage of cannabis cultivations have confirmed what many in the industry have known first hand for quite some time – indoor marijuana grows use substantial amounts of electricity. While the advent of LED grow lighting has helped reduce costs for cultivators willing to deviate from the historical norms of using traditional 1,000 Watt grow lamps, the industry continues to drastically outpace other industries in usage, in part, because lighting is only one contributing factor to a cultivation’s electrical bill. The constant humming of fans deployed to balance heat, and sizable HVAC systems needed to disburse moisture and mitigate odor, are also primary contributors.

In August, the Providence Journal published an article that provided statistical data from various sources that identified significant findings on the issue. Among those findings cited in the article were that marijuana cultivation constitutes 1 percent of American electricity consumption and that indoor cultivations have electricity use equivalent to those of data centers, that is, 50 to 200 times more than the average office complex. To read the entire article, click here.

One solution to balance high energy use and costs of commercial marijuana cultivations may lie in another “green” industry – solar. Producing solar energy offers a buffet of options for growers to consider.

A power purchase agreement might make sense for some. In this scenario, the cultivator buys outright or finances the cost of a solar system (roof mounted or ground mounted being variations of a typical system) and constructs it at the cultivation facility. Power generated from the system is then used on site to operate the cultivation facility, offsetting power otherwise pulled from the grid.

Alternatively, cannabis cultivations might consider net-metering. In this scenario, a project is placed at the cultivation facility. However, rather than using the power generated from the system at the facility, generated power is converted and sent back into the grid. The facility then receives a credit for such energy against its electrical bill.

A third alternative, available in some states, presents the ability to virtual net meter. This is a variation on the traditional net metering concept, the difference being that the solar system is located off-site, but the credits associated with net metering are portable and may be used to offset the cultivation facility’s electric bill.

For more information about this topic or other business matters related to the cannabis industry, cultivation facilities, and state laws and regulations, please contact PLDO Partner Benjamin L. Rackliffe at or call . We welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.