Part 2: Lower Energy Consumption Needed to Maintain Environmental Controls
In the second part of this series, we explore another benefit of implementing Pipp Horticulture mobile vertical racking solutions throughout your facility: lowering immediate and long-term energy consumption per gram, as well as initial capital expense. In addition to increasing canopy space and your bottom line, as discussed in the first part of this series, vertical cultivation simultaneously lowers expenditures on energy, accruing savings into the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, for cultivators over time. Not only can a vertical cultivation system reduce overhead costs per unit, but through implementation, cultivators can create a more efficient, sustainable and environmentally-conscious platform.
Exponential Energy Costs for Cultivators
In many states with recreational or medicinal cannabis programs, the laws dictate that cannabis must be grown indoors, thus forcing cultivators to replicate essential elements in nature, such as the sun, wind, humidity through their system of environmental controls. Because of this, cannabis cultivation has become known for the massive mechanical infrastructure and the energy it requires and its effect on the environment, with research concluding that cannabis cultivation consumes up to 10 times the amount of energy as an office building. Cultivators often see their energy costs accounting for up to 50% of their overhead expenditures, with the majority of those costs spent on lighting and HVAC needs.
Unfortunately, many cultivators miss opportunities to be more energy-efficient and cost-effective when designing their grow. Opting for standard single-tiered designs and lower initial equipment costs cause cultivators to lose countless savings on fixed-costs as well as the opportunity to increase revenue with additional canopy space.
Utility companies have now started to incentivize cannabis cultivators to embrace best practices as well. To prevent overloading of energy distribution systems, utility companies have and continue to develop programs to achieve energy-savings goals for both the utility company and cultivators. Incentives such as energy-savings opportunity studies, engineering-design analysis, and rebates, are encouraging cannabis companies to reduce their energy consumption as well as environmental impact. These opportunities are not just reserved for cultivators in the “new construction” phase and typically extend to those retrofitting and remodeling.
Reducing Overhead Through Vertical Grow Applications
Through the implementation of Pipp Horticulture and Greenhaus Industries vertical racking systems, cultivators are saving substantially on their energy costs per gram. Traditional lighting sources, such as single or double-ended HPS lights used by many cultivators, lack the benefit of being able to be placed in close-range to the plants due to the excessive heat they produce. The technological advancements made in LED lighting allow them to be fully utilized in vertically-designed grow systems. The low thermal output from the lights is optimal for vertical cultivation because they can be placed close to the plants without the fear of burning or over-heating them. Lower thermal output of LED lighting also allows for a reduction of capital expenditures and operating expenses associated with HVAC.
In addition to low thermal output from LEDs, less energy is needed to operate, and LEDs have a longer lifespan than other lighting used by cultivators. According to the US Department of Energy, converting to energy-efficient LED lighting allows for an average of 24% to 30% reduction in operating costs, and have even been known to reduce cultivator operating costs as much as 50% long-term. The LED lights employed in vertical racking systems typically get approximately 50,000 hours of use (over ten years on a 12:12 lighting schedule), where standard HPS lights need to be replaced annually, at least. Unfortunately, due to established beliefs, lack of institutional funding and higher initial cost of implementing LED lighting, the adoption of the technology has been slow. Despite the higher initial cost, the ROI of LED lights in conjunction with mobile vertical cultivation is achieved faster, by the significantly reduced operating cost and equipment replacement fees, as well as the additional revenue gained with LED lights and vertical racking.
In addition to the considerable amount of energy expended and costs associated with, the lighting needs of cultivators are the ongoing costs to maintain their HVAC system. HVAC systems, which are responsible for reducing outdoor contamination, as well as maintaining the ideal temperature, humidity and CO2 levels, can account for as much as 50% of the energy costs endured by cultivators. These systems, responsible for maintaining various environmental controls, reduce a cultivator’s risk for harmful plant conditions, such as mold and mildew. Technological advancements and energy-efficiency opportunities have been slow to surface regarding the HVAC systems used by cultivators who, when designing their grows, generally use designs from companies lacking cannabis experience, and the knowledge of the intricate environmental controls needed. Equipment used for standard home and office uses are often employed, and struggle to keep up with the demands of the grow.
HVAC systems never stop running and have a consistent demand put on them when they are on. In single-level grows, each time lights are powered up or turned off, the HVAC system has to work to catch up with the amount of heat being either emitted into or reduced from the environment. By implementing vertical racking systems using LED technology, the ongoing demand for HVAC controls are spread over increased output. Environmental conditions stabilize quicker and with greater ease due to the lessened amount of heat distributed from the lights. Utilizing vertical racking systems with LED lighting reduces CAPEX expenditures needed per unit of output,
Achieving Best Practices in Your Grow
By incorporating energy and space-efficient practices throughout a grow, cultivators can increase production and drive down operating costs, while maintaining stability. Technological advancements have allowed for more efficient and eco-conscious cultivating methods, with vertical growing applications being at the forefront of these advancements. Pipp Horticulture mobile vertical racking systems are designed to accommodate and easily integrate a wide range of requirements to meet environmental needs and controls. Through the implementation of vertical racking systems, the energy expended to meet the environmental demands of an indoor cultivator is consistently reduced, over time as well as initially. Best practices are met and exceeded with vertical growing systems by allowing cultivators to decrease overhead per unit and have additional capital to reinvest in their company.