The Recorder – Missing Solar Ingredient in Pot Industry Energy Use

Published: 07/15/2022 16:38:19

Modified: 07/15/2022 16:38:05

Following the arguments against growing cannabis outdoors, I recall a letter I sent several years ago about the energy-intensive indoor pot industry. It was then that the installation of Bernardston was proposed.

Now the business has grown, and I’m still curious and discouraged that local discussions of this burgeoning industry rarely address energy consumption. As I pass the Bernardston “factory” daily, I marvel at the missed opportunity for all of us: for the company to increase its public relations, for the city to use leverage to demand good stewardship, for the state trying to meet energy targets, and for the planet to maintain carbon levels.

In 2018, “…the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources said the energy it would take to power the grow lights of 660,000 square feet of cannabis canopy could negate the energy-saving effect of DOER’s $11 million program to convert more than 130,000 streetlights statewide to LED.” (Worcester Business Journal, June 2, 2021).

One estimate predicted that the cannabis industry requires 10% of industrial energy consumption in our state. Another study states that “the energy equivalent of 70 barrels of oil is embedded in every average plant grown indoors.” That’s a lot of power to get high.

This problem has partial solutions. In Somerset, Solar Cannabis Co. installed nearly 70,000 square feet of panels. However, most estimates would require far more solar power than a rooftop could provide. Growing outdoors offers less yield, safety issues and of course the smell. People who have lived near dairy farms or chickens for millennia know the smells. These problems seem easier to solve than the emissions linked to climate change.

Before I get accused of targeting the marijuana industry, let me say…these buildings have huge flat roofs! I have believed for years that our country should mandate solar energy on any major new industrial or municipal construction. I also understand that the industry creates jobs and sustains city revenue. What I mean is that solar power should be a much bigger part of the conversation about this particularly energy-intensive industry.

Andre Vernon


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