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Energy Use in Indoor Agriculture 2018: A Breakout Year

Created 6/6/2018 by Denis DuBois
Updated 6/7/2018 by Stephanie Lane
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Ever-popular conference sessions on indoor agriculture always involve a healthy dose of snickers. Between giggles this panel offered great advice for EE professionals. Attendees left better informed, and a little hungry.

“Use the language of the trade – say cannabis, not weed,” advises panelist Laura Polk of Green Choice Farms, a grower. And to talk to growers about energy efficiency, utilities should reach out to them through the government agencies that growers must talk to anyway, she says.

Ms. Polk began by describing some of the energy challenges facing commercial cannabis growers. Clone room humidity needs to be high, but HVAC is trying to dehumidify the space. Flowers need lower humidity, and the drying room needs 60% humidity to avoid mold.

“Target HID’s midstream” to influence hard-to-reach home growers, says panelist Katie Wallace of the Energy Trust of Oregon.

ETO’s Grow Light Research Project (PDF) found that more than half of home growers are growing plants in unconditioned space. They use very little heat and virtually no air conditioning. Their energy use is driven by lighting.

“Home growers spend $200-$800 per fixture for HIDs, and $900-$1,500 for longer life LEDs,” Ms. Wallace said. Most are using HIDs that they buy through specialty retail stores. About 23% of home growers surveyed are using LEDs, which they buy mostly online.

ETO combined secondary research with interviews and web surveys of home growers. They also talked to lighting retailers, manufacturers and distributors. Federal legal issues made the research more challenging.

“Don’t fool yourself into thinking that LEDs are a silver bullet for grower energy efficiency,” warns panelist John Morris of D+R International. Heat requirements change when LEDs are installed.

LEDs can be a hard sell to commercial growers because some buyers are biased against plants grown with LEDs. He advises working through trade allies rather than going direct to the growers.

“This new customer class needs an electrical hookup and energy efficiency advice, so work with them on both when they come in for a hookup,” Mr. Morris advises utilities.

Rather than relying on your commercial lighting program, customize your outreach. “Growers’ profits are being pinched right now, so this is a good time to approach them.”

Mr. Morris says Canada will legalize cannabis federally this year, which will hugely influence the market for grower equipment in the United States. Commercial cultivation space is limited by law in the United States, but “Canada’s grow houses will be millions of square feet.”

John Wilson, Lighting Design Lab, moderated this breakout session, which was part of the program at Efficiency Exchange 2018, an annual conference hosted by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance and Bonneville Power Administration. (Video & slides.)

Cookies were served in the lobby after the session.

 

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