A recent report suggests that pot growing activities in states such as Washington and Colorado account for 1 percent of those states’ energy use. Experts say that some large cultivation operations can be as detrimental to the environment as big data centers.
U.S. data centers release about 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air on every year, a separate report shows. This makes them one of the human activities with the most negative impact on the planet’s climate.
Experts now claim that marijuana cultivation also worsens global warming. They explained that pot growers need a lot of electricity to air-condition, illuminate, and remove humidity from large marijuana crops.
Lead investigator Kelly Crandall described the energy use of this activity as “immense.” Crandall is a researcher with the EQ Research, a North Carolina-based organization focused on clean energy research.
Energy Costs Likely to Rise
The report revealed that extensive cultivation operations can consume as much as 2,000 watts per each square meter. Crandall explained the plants need to be illuminated and ventilated on a constant basis.
But the researcher estimates the carbon footprint of the pot-growing business in the U.S. is likely to rise as more states legalize the activity. Next month, nine states including California will vote to legalize cannabis. If that happens, California could become the largest pot-growing state in America.
Crandall recently disclosed she has been researching the issue since she first started working for the city of Boulder a few weeks ago. The municipality hired her as an energy strategy coordinator.
Back then, she had a shock to learn how energy inefficient the marijuana cultivation industry was from its energy bills. What’s more, even though the business is very profitable, few pot growers make significant investments in energy-efficiency.
Crandall explained that the banks’ cash restrictions prevent growers from making their business more environmentally-friendly. Because under the federal law, the business is still illegal, few bankers credit pot growers even in states where operations are perfectly legal.
Stephen Jensen, the head of an Washington-based marijuana grow center agrees. He said that the industry is still struggling to comply with the new legal framework, and financing now represents “a big problem.”
Growing Marijuana Outdoors
This is why, the marijuana industry is still lagging behind in the adoption of energy-efficient options. Jensen noted that many growers had cultivated their plaints indoors before the activity became legal. So, many of them once worked “under the radar.”
Jensen is one of them. He said he needed two years to learn how to grow marijuana outdoors and dramatically reduce energy costs. Currently, he needs only one building with artificial illumination to grow mother plants and for cloning operations.
The rest of the plants thrive in “sun-powered” greenhouses. He disclosed that his electricity costs plunged from $25,000-$40,000 per month to $1,250-$1,500 since he moved growing operations outdoors.
Crandall revealed that information on grow centers’ electricity costs is extremely scarce. She had to dig into utility filings, published reports, and interviews for her current research. A 2012 study helped her understand how bad the problem is. According to that study, pot growers’ energy costs at the time amounted to $6 billion per year.
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