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Do you use renewable energy?

Inspired by this article:

@garymorgan Since you’re in Alaska, I think the article may interest you as well.

Does anybody use solar panels? Wind turbines? Geothermal power? Obviously you don’t want to rely on these power sources exclusively, but they can be a great supplemental for your power demands.

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I’m thinking about getting these solar shingles : https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.greentechmedia.com/amp/article/the-economics-of-teslas-solar-roof

Also, check out http://www.archsolar.net. An option for small cultivators.

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http://www.archsolar.net/waldoboro-environmental-project/

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I am working on a (non-Cannabis) project that has just installed 2 x 4500 square feet greenhouses that will be heated and powered by a biogas digester. The heating will be over 500,000 BTUs per greenhouse - aiming to keep them at about 10c all through winter (it regularly gets below -20c). If it works the plant will be expanded and farm delivery vehicles will also run off the biogas.

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what kind of biogas? I’m not sure what a biogas digester is…

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It will be from reclaimed green waste. Basically it is a big tank/digester that captures the gas from decomposition and stores it. It will take up to 2 tonnes of green waste and organic materials per day and it gives energy and also a fertilizer liquid at the end of the process.

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methane gas?

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yes primarily. although they like to call it ‘natural gas’ for some reason. maybe its less offensive than saying a methane gas plant.

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methane is 8x the impact on climate change vs CO2, if you buy into those theories.

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when it is combusted it creates co2? it captures the methane which would often otherwise be created from rotting organic matter and released into the atmosphere and allows it to be used for clean combustion.

It’s a lot more sustainable and ecologically sound than using coal or oil and will help create a closed loop system.

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" methane, the gas produced extensively by the livestock industry worldwide, traps up to 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide within a 5 year period, and 72 times more within a 20 year period".

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That is methane that is directly released to the atmosphere - the frozen methane deposits of the arctic could wipe us out. However - storing and using it in a system is very different as the methane does not get released, rather it is converted into energy and byproduct - co2 or water? (@Hunter might be able to explain it better than me)

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@nathan To answer what you’re saying… The reaction is an oxidation reaction (you’re literally burning the methane). In this case, methane with oxygen in the air. Looks like this:

CH4 + 2x(O2) -> Energy + CO2 + 2x(H2O).

The result is 2 water molecules and a carbon dioxide molecule. However, @nathan, water vapor is also a greenhouse gas. So burning methane still leads to more overall greenhouse gases than straight CO2, but less than methane in the atmosphere.

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Coming from the commercial ag industry, Ive had tons of access to great technology. One of these techs is combined heat and power (CHP). Its used alot by European greenhouse companies and its something that I am designing for all of our purpose-built facilities (greenhouse and warehouse). Its basically a large engine that runs on natural gas (producing clean usable CO2). The engine turns a turbine to produce electricity for about $0.03/kW. The heat from the combustion can be captured and re-utilized for other processes like heating other spaces or as part of the integrated climate control system. By capturing the waste heat, thru the use of heat exchangers and water chiller tech, it can be used to dehumidify the grow space. The water then collected via the dehumidification process can be re-used as part of the irrigation. Its a great closed-loop process. Its not new, and has been used by the greenhouse industry for 15 years. There is a great company in Colorado called Cultivated Power that I am working with. They are not cheap, but they do offer a quick ROI especially since energy is one of the top 3 growing costs and will become more of an issue than it already is.

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And if I had access to geothermal, then I would definitely use it, especially for winter production in a greenhouse. I have seen some interesting greenhouse projects in Mexico that use geothermal and its amazing what “pre-warm” water can do to cut energy costs.

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Here in Alaska, renewable energy is fairly common, especially in the more remote or rural areas. Most small towns and cities are either powered by diesel generators, wind turbines, or hydroelectric. Where I live we’re lucky to be supplied by hydroelectric facilities. I work for Petersburg Municipal Power and Light the electric utility in Petersburg, and we receive most of our electricity from a hydroelectric dam about 45 miles away located in a remote mountain lake called Tyee. We have submarine cables that connect island to island in a chain. Tyee sends it’s electricity to the island town of Wrangell and then it continues along to Mitkof Island where I live (Town of Petersburg). The city of Ketchikan is also connected to Tyee Lake Dam. Petersburg has its own hydroelectric facility located on Crystal Mountain. I help maintain the facility and operate the hydro and backup diesel generators in emergencies and during maintenance periods. Kupreanof the island across from us has no permanent power, so all the homes there use a combination of solar, wind, and gas generators for their electric needs.

Wind Turbines are becoming an effective addition to energy generation for remote towns, and solar is definitely an option for half the year. Geothermal is another option that is being looked at in many locations around the state.

As far as alternative energy for Alaska growers, it’s definitely an option to reduce operating costs and reduce the dependence on fossil fuels. We get very long periods of sunlight half the year and very limited daylight the rest of the year, so solar is a seasonal option. Outdoor grows, high tunnels, or greenhouses are better options as they are more cost effective. The return on investment for solar can be expensive and take longer to recover investment costs than the lower 48 because of the seasonal generation.

Electric rates can be very expensive in remote areas that still generate using fossil fuels. In fact I wouldn’t recommend cultivation facilities to operate in these places as the high cost per kwh along with frequent power outages would make it very difficult to be sustainable and competitive.

Southeast Alaska with all its rain and mountain lakes is energy rich, and has comparable electric rates to the lower 48 at .11 cent/kwh. For this reason I felt having a grow operation in Petersburg made sense. It will give me a small competitive edge down the road when the competition tightens.

For the lower 48 growers I’d highly recommend adding solar to future plans. Most electric utilities will now buyback power from businesses. You can install a solar array with a grid-tie system where the utility buys the electric that you produce which offsets your electric costs greatly. For larger grow facilities the electric utility likely charges you based on your kwh usage AND your demand usage. Demand is the measurement of your average and peak usage. Each utility is different so understanding how you’re charged for your electric usage can save you big time. Some heavy users are charged extra when usage exceeds set amounts, others are charged less when they exceed certain levels. It all depends on your utility companies rates and programs. Another thing to consider is time of use (TOU). In certain areas you’re charged more per kwh during certain times of the day. This has to do with how much available electricity the utility can generate. During the highest usage periods of the day the rate can increase or decrease. If you live in one of these areas it would pay to set your grow facility up to have the lights turn on during the low rate periods (Usually after normal daylight business hours).

I hope this can help any of you out there that can take advantage of this information. It can save your business a lot of money if you look into your setup and make sure you’re able to get your best rate, and reduce your operating costs. If anyone has questions, message me.

Happy Growing!

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Just saw this amazing statistic that indoor cannabis grows use 1% of the total electricity in the US:
https://merryjane.com/news/cannabis-industry-fossil-fuel

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A great renewable energy solution for greenhouse/mixed light cultivation is Soliculture’s transparent LUMO solar panels (www.soliculture.com). This technology came the the commercial greenhouse ag industry and it a perfect fit for medium to large scale Cannabis facilities. The electricity production can provide up to 100% of the greenhouse energy needs for LED supplemental lighting, fans, automation, etc. Feel free to contact me directly for more information or a quote at [email protected].

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New article about a zero carbon footprint cannabis grow. They use hydroelectric power:

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Good article on water conservation when growing cannabis:

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