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Getting High On Energy Costs

October 2, 2014
How will indoor Marijuana plants impact energy demands in our region? What is the cost to the growers?

Seattle, Washington - New Leaf Enterprises is a northwest cannabis growing operation. Marijuana plants are grown in a warehouse under bright lights. Seedlings spend 5-7 weeks in the “grow” room under fluorescent lights, then are moved to the “flower room,” where they create flowering buds under high-pressure sodium lights.

Marijuana plants growing under 1000 watt high-pressure sodium lights. These lights help yield a higher quality product, but require a lot of energy.

Boris Gordinitsky is co-founder of New Leaf Enterprises. Gordinitsky says indoor growing allows more control over the plants and yields a higher quality product. The biggest cost, he says, are the lights.

“The reason that we need so much light is because the amount of indoor light, even though it looks very bright, is actually a fraction of what the sun produces.” Says Gordinitsky.

It takes a lot of lights to keep a marijuana plant happy. 1000 watt bulbs are on 12 hours a day in the flower room. There’s also the room’s air conditioning system, which runs constantly. According to Gordinitsky, it cranks out enough air to cool down a hotel.

All this energy adds up. New Leaf’s monthly energy costs run upwards of $13,000 for the two cultivation rooms, and another $4,000 a month for the rest of the warehouse. That amounts to a third of the company’s total cultivation costs.

With more grow operations sprouting up around Washington state, northwest power planners are studying the possible impact of indoor pot production on the region’s electricity demands. A study recently released by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council shows indoor cannabis production increasing power demand by up to 160 megawatts over the next 20 years.

Tom Eckman would like more people to use energy efficient light bults.

Northwest power planners are studying the possible impact of indoor pot production on the region’s electricity demands.

Tom Eckman is the power planning director at the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

“We could make this load just by making more energy efficient light bulbs available to a large share of the population,” says Eckman “there’d be no noticeable increase in the need for new generation.”

Gordinitsky is two steps ahead of Eckman. He has a “test batch” of plants currently growing under LED lights. The plants are growing well, he says, but more slowly than traditional lights.

Gordinitsky with his "test batch" of plants growing under LED lights.

“Let’s say you have an LED bulb that reduces your production by 20% right? You increase your canopy by 20%, you’re still saving 30% off electricity, right? But we’re not allowed to increase our canopy by 20% because the license limits us to certain canopy size, “ says Gordinitsky. New Leaf’s state license restricts their yield and canopy size. Gordinitsky is optimistic about the strides LED technology is making, but for now, he says that he can’t afford to switch all his lights to LED’s.

“This is a very high value crop so a reduction in ten, twenty percent really overwhelms any kind of cost savings you get out of electrical costs. So for us right now, switching to LED’s would primarily be a little bit greener, but not primarily a cost saving.”Gordinitsky explains.



Made possible in part by

Stacey Jenkins

Stacey Jenkins is the managing producer of Spark Public. She is an Emmy-award winning producer who is passionate about pushing the boundaries of digital media and training the next generation of multimedia journalists. Stacey has been a Digital Content Producer at KCTS 9 for the past four years; her stories have been showcased locally on IN Close as well as nationally on SciTech Now and the PBS NewsHour's Art Beat. Stacey’s experience also includes working as a senior producer for KPTS, as an assistant media instructor and producer for Portland Community College and a TV news reporter for the CBC in Canada.

Fun Fact: Stacey’s guilty pleasures include over-the-top Halloween decor, eating sweetened condensed milk straight from the can and Maroon 5’s “Sugar” video.

More stories by Stacey Jenkins

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How can we progress in our social development when our so-called trusted source for information PBS has such deficient information. Outdoor growing of Cannabis is not only possible in WA state, it is better, yes better. As someone with 35 years experience with this incredible plant I can categorically say outdoor Cannabis is as good if not better than indoor and only takes a greenhouse and some ingenuity by the grower to prevent mold. There is no carbon footprint and if we did not have a corrupt and inept legislation in this state and country, those in power would create a system which rewards those who protect this planet from Carbon overdose and climate change. We all no the Oligarchy will never allow this, so please stop airing programs which are hardly informative and more propaganda in nature. I wouldn't be surprised if you do not print this as well - perhaps the Koch brothers didn't approve. I watch Democracy Now and support them in this time of deception and no longer support PBS - what a shame!

I deal with a company out of Seattle Washington, The one owner of this product that we use for Thermal efficiency, he claims he can show and prove that he can save over 60-70% of energy savings of these utilities companies are paying to grow cannabis...if you are interested let me know and i will disclose the name of this fellow and a number , Maybe this is the wrong location to mention this , but I am trying to get our product to the right people in this regard to help curb the huge costs..Thank you