Marijuana Business Magazine February 2019

Marijuana Business Magazine | February 2019 98 Best Practices | Cultivation LEDs Win Out When comparing high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights to LEDs in terms of energy consumption, HPS lights require a little more power to run, according to Ben Franz, senior vice president of cultivation for Den- ver-based MJardin, which operates cultivation, processing and retail facilities in North America. LEDs require less wattage to create the same amount of light, and less wattage means the lights are putting out less heat. “That’s where the heat savings come from,” Franz said. He explained it this way: If your lighting accounts for 40% of total energy costs, and you can save 25% on lighting costs with LEDs, then you’re looking at a 10% reduction in total energy costs. Van McConnon, a Boulder, Colorado-based cannabis consultant who once operated cultivation sites in Nevada, said one trick for a greenhouse operation is to include a light bar that will move over your plants as supplemental light. An automated light bar rolls on a track above the canopy and bathes cannabis in light for about 90 sec- onds every four or five minutes. That will save you money on equipment and energy costs instead of hanging lights across your entire facility. Singh also recommended using LEDs in areas that will provide rebates for less-energy-intensive equipment. For example, some provinces in Canada with energy- efficiency programs will offer rebates of $200-$250 per light. Franz pointed out that while lighting can save you money on energy costs, “HVAC and dehumidification technology have the ability to move the mark a lot more than lighting does.” Don’t Skimp on HVAC The first step you should take if you want to reduce your energy consumption is to buy a purpose-built HVAC system—meaning one designed specifically for cannabis cultivation facilities, according to Franz. Several brands are available, including some that double as HVAC systems for indoor swimming pools. Residential HVAC systems aren’t quite capable of handling the unique challenges of a marijuana facility, he said. Growing marijuana plants creates a large amount of moisture, for one, and often plants are grown in climates, such as Nevada, that are not ideally suited for cannabis production. One of Franz’s clients bought an older building with residential HVAC and operates about 24,000 square feet of flowering space. Franz said this client spends about $1 million per year maintaining the residential HVAC system. “People tend to skimp on HVAC because it is going to be quite a bit more expensive,” Franz added. “But the payback is there.” McConnon advises using a desiccant-based HVAC system. A conventional HVAC system will use more power to remove moisture from the air, he said, while a desiccant-focused system uses a wheel made of corrugated material to draw water from the environment. “That’s going to be a lot more power-efficient system,” McConnon added. Singh recommends gradually powering up and turning off your lights to reduce the demand on your HVAC system. “A great way of reducing your HVAC demand is having lights that mimic daytime and nighttime,” he said. Why? When you turn off all your lights, your HVAC system immediately must work harder to catch up to that change. Instead, program your lights to mirror dusk’s slow fade to dark and the gradual brightness of dawn. “If you have your lights immediately go on and your room jumps to 75% relative humidity, to bring it back to 55% is a lot harder than if it just went to 60%,” Singh said. “If your system can’t catch up, then it’s working a lot harder than it should have to work.” Indoor or Greenhouse McConnon has been closely following the steep decline in wholesale prices in mature recreational cannabis mar- kets such as Colorado. That price drop makes it tough to stay profitable when operating an indoor cultivation facility. The cost of production—primarily energy costs— are too high with indoor grows, according to McConnon. “The indoor facilities are the noose that’s going to hang these businesses,” he said. “My advice to every client I talk to is, ‘Do not spend Ben Franz Courtesy Photo