Budding Midwest marijuana industry could send energy use sky-high

Source: By Stephanie Manuzak, Yale Climate Connections • Posted: Monday, June 8, 2020

But energy efficiency measures could blunt the impact.

Marijuana greenhouse

Recreational marijuana recently became legal in Illinois and Michigan. But for cannabis plants to thrive year-round in the Midwest, they must be grown indoors. So as the industry expands, its energy use could easily get, well, pretty high.

“Lighting is one of the largest energy uses of an indoor cultivation facility, followed closely by heating and cooling and then dehumidification,” says Molly Graham of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.

She says using a lot of energy is bad for the climate and business.

“We’ve seen that energy can make up a third or more of the operating cost of a cannabis facility, which is huge. It’s a huge operating cost,” she says.

Installing efficient LED lights and HVAC systems can help. And if growers build a new facility, Graham recommends they prioritize energy efficiency.

“There are new construction opportunities to think more holistically about the building, the building envelope, ensuring that all of the mechanical systems operate well together,” Graham says.

She says states and utilities can encourage efficiency by setting requirements and offering programs to guide growers. By saving energy, the budding industry can grow while minimizing its impact on the climate.