In Washington State energy analysts expect cannabis cultivation facilities to cause a load growth of 80 to 160 average megawatts of power over the next 20 years. (www.nwcouncil.org/news/blog/marijuana-demand-forecast).
The lighting needed to grow a plant is the biggest culprit in high-energy costs. A standard old-school grow uses 1000W High Pressure Sodium on every 16sf of growing space. In Washington, where a cannabis operation can legally grow 30,000sf of plants, that is 1,875 HPS fixtures. HPS also put out 90% of their energy as heat, so a grower also needs to run their cooling equipment full-time to combat the lighting energy being created. Plants also need dehumidification, CO2, watering systems and other energy using equipment.
Rebates & Incentives:
Utilities are extremely concerned about this energy use and the subsequent pressure on the power grid. Utilities have federal and state mandates they must meet for reduction in energy use. Most utilities have programs to offer their customers incentives for taking out high-energy equipment and replacing with more energy efficient counterparts.
Actual rebate issued to a tier 3 cannabis producer in Washington State
But are they rebating for grow?
In states where cannabis has been legalized, most of the utilities have been working on putting programs together to achieve their energy targets. Privately held utilities generally offer rebates for energy efficiency in grow. The wrinkle in this, is the Federal issue. Cannabis is still illegal on the Federal level. So utilities that are funded with federal monies cannot provide rebates using that federal funding. Some of them have found a compromise by “self-funding” programs using other sources of funding. There are many utilities that would like to offer incentives for grow but they don’t know where to start. Grow lighting and cooling equipment doesn’t fit into any of their standard programs and they don’t know how to quantify the savings.
What are the programs?
FGI has been working with many utilities nationwide since 2014 to help them understand the traditional baselines and create programs that will benefit both the utility and the customer. Many utilities are providing incentives that pay 30-70% of the project cost of doing an upgrade. The money is there, the customer just has to submit an application and be approved for a rebate. No rebates are given “after the fact”. All the utilities agree that they want pre-approval of any lighting installed before a rebate will be paid.
- 30-70% of the cost of the upgrade (depending on energy savings)
- pre-approval required
- site inspection often necessary
- funding paid out after installation
Another issue for the utilities is in quantifying the credibility of the many types of equipment, especially lighting, that is being brought to them. Many have come up with standards that they use to establish that a light is worth incentivizing. These can be safety certifications, warranty length and even requiring a manufacturer to provide lab data or third party certifications showing the quality of what they are selling. Unfortunately, in the early days of LED grow lights, many substandard lights were installed using incentives and then when the lights didn’t perform well, the grower took them down and replaced them with the high energy lighting again. This put the grower in default on the agreements they had signed with the utility and created penalties for the grower. They also were paying higher energy bills as well. It has taken a few years for technology to reach the level that is satisfactory for all parties and establish lighting that a grower really can trust. FGI has tried to stay on the forefront of these technology advances as well as the utility programs and requirements.
It’s a confusing morass of paperwork, spec sheets, lighting plans and lab reports.
INCENTIVE PROJECT STEPS:
Customer address through our proprietary utility database
- Interview customer regarding lighting quantities, hours of operation and square footage
- Provide rebate estimate based on customer provided data
- Assemble data for application
- Submit application to utility
- Site inspection by utility for verification
- Utility returns with a grant estimate and agreement
- Agreement signed by all parties
- Lights are shipped to customer
- Site inspection confirmation by utility
- Final paperwork turned in
- Incentive check sent by utility
FGI has a full time staff devoted to helping with these rebate programs. We research your utility based on your service address and can let you know whether your utility is in fact, offering rebates.
If they’re not, that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually. One of the things FGI is working on is expanding the number of utilities offering rebates by working with each one to assist in program development.
NXT LEVEL CERTIFICATION
FGI is proud to have NXT level certification by the NW Trade Ally Network. FGI is currently the only provider in the industry that has this certification. The certification is assurance for both the customer and the utility that FGI has been through the necessary hours of training and passed all the associated exams to receive this certification. Both the customer and the utility can have the confidence that FGI is the credible source for careful utility grant applications and that we are advising our clients with the most up to date information available.
If you’re interested in finding out how your facility can benefit from a grant from your utility for energy efficient lighting, please reach out to FGI. We are here to help.