New report sheds light on energy use in Boulder County cannabis cultivation facilities

Reducing the environmental impact of the cannabis industry is the goal 

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Boulder County, Colo. - Boulder County’s Cannabis Energy Impact Offset Fund (EIOF) sponsored an energy assessment of cannabis cultivation facilities in unincorporated Boulder County between July 2019 and February 2020. The report, compiled by Energy & Resources Solutions (ERS), assessed energy usage, utility consumption data, and productivity.  

With this data, the report was able to offer recommendations to increase cost savings, lower carbon footprints, and maximize production yields in these cannabis cultivation facilities. Notably, the report also developed energy intensity and productivity metrics for future county benchmarking and industry comparison requirements. 

Boulder County requires commercial cannabis cultivators to either offset their electricity use with local renewable energy or pay a surcharge for non-renewable energy usage. The fees from this surcharge are placed into the Boulder County Energy Impact Offset Fund which supports the implementation of sustainable energy practices and funds carbon pollution reducing projects. 

“We are proud to collaborate with local cannabis cultivators to reduce environmental impacts,” said Susie Strife, Director of Boulder County’s Office of Sustainability, Climate Action & Resilience. “Through the Energy Impact Offset Fund we are able to fund meaningful studies, like this ERS report, to develop best practices that help both the planet and local business.” 

Here are five key findings of the report: 

  • While indoor facilities are more electrically intense due to 100% reliance on artificial lighting, greenhouses are more fuel intense due to poor envelope performance inherent with greenhouses.  
  • The greenhouses in the study use approximately 30% less combined electrical and fuel energy per square foot of flowering canopy than the indoor facilities.  
  • Greenhouse productivity is approximately 15% better than the indoor facilities in terms of grams of dry usable product per MMBtu of site energy, which includes all fuels. 
  • When considering grams of product produced per pound of CO2 equivalent emissions, greenhouse facilities are nearly 70% more productive.  
  • Horticultural lighting accounts for 69% of total annual energy use in the indoor facilities and 32% of total annual energy use in the greenhouse facilities.  

“As the cannabis industry matures and nationwide market competition increases, it will be imperative for Boulder County cannabis cultivators to make data driven decisions that lead to energy savings while maintaining or increasing their productivity levels,” said Dave Hatchimonji, Energy Efficiency Program Manager at Boulder County. “This ERS report should give these organizations a foot up on their peers, while addressing Boulder County’s need to lower the carbon emissions for this energy intensive industry.” 

To further address this need to lower carbon emissions in the cannabis industry, Boulder County is working with the Cannabis Conservancy to launch a Cannabis Carbon Conscious certification program on June 11, 2020. This certification program is an industry leading energy certification program designed to be practical and cost-effective. To learn more, contact Jacob Policzer, director of the Cannabis Conservancy at [email protected] . 

To read the full summary of the ERS report visit: https://assets.bouldercounty.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/EIOF-BC-Cultivation-Assessment-Summary-Report_Final-5_4_20.pdf

For more information about Boulder County’s sustainability mission and to learn about other programs, visit boco.org/sustainability or contact Christian Herrmann at [email protected].