Indoor-grown marijuana is a real energy – demanding way of farming your cannabis. A national study released by the U.S. Department of Energy reports that a full one percent of the U.S. electrical grid is now dedicated to growing cannabis. Equivalent to the energy output of 1.7 million American homes, the emerging industry is putting a significant strain on the national power grid and is the country’s most energy-intensive crop at a cost of $6 billion annually.
For decades, traditional indoor grow lights have been high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps. The same sodium lamps that lights up a majority of the world’s city streets have been used in grow rooms from San Diego to Denver and Syracuse. Meant to mimic the intense rays of the sun, flowering rooms that are equipped with HIDs, require continuous air conditioning and de-humidification. All of the usage, however, translate to excessive power wastage. LED lighting, on the other hand, consumes less electricity and emits far less heat, which means greater return to the grower’s bottom line.
As a common saying goes: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, there is a pervasive reticence to switch to new tech and invite the high cost of re-outfitting a grow room. However, with the ever-expanding effects of global warming, and the rising cost of electricity, LEDs are in the spotlight as a more sustainable approach to indoor cultivation.
Head grower Kevin Biernacki at The Grove Nevada’s 50,000-sqft cultivation facility was interested in LED and looking for low-heat, cost-effective lighting during the manufacture of their vertical–grow site in Las Vegas. “We really needed a multi-tiered system that wouldn’t cook the roots above,” he said.
Stacking grow racks in tiers means the Grove can double or triple their square footage – and vastly increase profits at the same time. Biernacki says he went through a host of LED companies, putting east to the test with a side-by-side independent lamp test. He explains why, after an exhaustive search, they ended up purchasing 650 LED grow lights from the company, Heliospectra.
“It really came down to grams per watt,” he says. “Also, we liked that Heliospectra lights allow you to customize light recipes, which other people simply don’t have.”
The Grove is now able to design light combinations that mimic sunrise, mid-day and sunset, combined with a “far red push” during the last few weeks of flowering. “The last three weeks of harvest we were able to push the light spectrum a little differently,” says Biernacki. “At the very end, we are getting that far red and we were able to speed up the product to harvest.”
Affective harvest times by as much as one full week from a 10-week flowering period, the amount of money saved speak for itself. Biernacki says it was also important to the grove to consult other commercial cultivators who use Heliospectra’s LED lights, and found that the growers were “continually expanding their number of Heliospectra lights. We obviously lookrf at that as very positive<" he says. "It was a little daunting at first to learn how to manipulate lighting," says Biernacki, "but we soon learned that with the click of a button we could change the light recipes." He adds that the Grove's first. He adds that the Grove's first harvest with LEDs yield a strain with 10% myrcene cannabinoid level and another boasting and incredible 31.4% of THC. The unprecedented level of control over grow rooms that LED lights give cultivators is a giant leap forward for cannabis tech. Rapid return on investment, cutting down on wasteful energy bills and increased control over cannabinoids levels could very well change the entire cannabis growing paradigm as we know it.