Washington’s indoor pot grows could be big power suck

Sep 9, 2014, 5:15 PM | Updated: Sep 10, 2014, 8:13 am

Regional power planners say Washington’s growing indoor pot industry could become a significa...

Regional power planners say Washington's growing indoor pot industry could become a significant user of electricity in the coming years. (AP file)

(AP file)

A new study says all the indoor marijuana growing operations springing up in Washington state could put a significant demand on the region’s power supplies. Planners are keeping a close eye on the situation.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council is currently updating its 20-year forecast of regional electricity demand as part of the Northwest Power Plan – which it issues every five years.

Pot growing caught the attention of planners after seeing what happened in Colorado, where the explosion of growers and large-scale industrial operations fueled massive energy consumption, says Tom Eckman, director of the council’s Power Planning Division.

Eckman says it takes the same amount of electricity to grow just four pot plants indoors as it does to power 29 refrigerators.

“You’re installing 1,000 watt lights over about every two plants and running those 16 to 18 hours a day to grow the product over a 10, 12, 14 week cycle. It’s a pretty significant consumption of electricity.”

The council studied a number of growers across the state earlier this summer after they were granted licenses by the Washington State Liquor Control Board. It determined demand for electricity could grow between 60 and 160 average megawatts over the next few years.

“That’s significant,” Eckman says. “That’s about half of the size of a new combustion turbine gas generating plant.”

To put it in perspective, the council compared marijuana production to aluminum. And Eckman says the findings were surprising.

“It takes about 5,000 kilowatt hours to produce a kilogram of cannabis. When we were looking in history it took about 15 to 20 kilowatt hours to produce a kilogram of aluminum in this region.”

The demand could be far greater if other states in the region legalize marijuana as well.

While the planning process is used to determine demand and the best way to deliver more power, the council also studied ways the industry can reduce energy use by improving efficiencies.

Growers could lower electricity used by about 30 percent by increasing their use of LED lighting and high efficiency heating and ventilation systems, Eckman says.

He also says the council found energy-efficient LED systems increased the yield of two strains of pot by 6 percent, which could be a big incentive for growers.

It’s all just part of what will become an increasing focus for the council in coming years as more growers go into business. But in the end, he says while it brings some societal issues with it, the council isn’t treating marijuana any differently than a data center or other industry.

“It’s different than a lot of the other things we look at that increase electrical consumption. The Facebook data center is pretty visible in the neighborhood. And this particular agricultural growth product tends to be a little more invisible in the neighborhoods,” he says. “But still, it’s just another use.”

MyNorthwest News

Image: The broken steering column of a car recently stolen by a group of teenagers and a 12-year-ol...

James Lynch

Teenagers, 12-year-old charged with violent crime spree in Seattle

King County prosecutors announced charges against three teenagers and a 12-year-old child for a crime spree earlier this month in Seattle.

1 hour ago

Image: The Auburn Police Department and Kings County Sheriffs Deputies responded to an incident in ...

Steve Coogan

Suspect dead in Auburn after eviction order leads to officer involved shooting

The King County Sheriff's Office confirmed its deputies were involved in an officer involved shooting Friday morning in Auburn.

6 hours ago

Image: Traffic on Interstate 5 passes through downtown on Nov. 28, 2013, in Seattle. Seattle, locat...

Steve Coogan

If you haven’t already left for the holiday weekend, you’re in trouble

AAA notes that traveling by car is appealing for many during a holiday weekend because of the flexibility it provides. But it brings traffic.

6 hours ago

spd chief leave...

Frank Sumrall

SPD’s assistant chief placed on administrative leave

The Assistant Chief of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) has been placed on administrative leave, according to Police Chief Adrian Diaz.

12 hours ago

constitutional unlawful detainer...

Matt Markovich

How does Washington fix its eviction case backlog? A constitutional change is needed

King County is struggling with this workload due to a constitutional requirement that unlawful detainer cases must be heard by a constitutional commissioner.

14 hours ago

king county gangs...

James Lynch

Are big time gangs operating in King County?

After a string of shootings, King County prosecutors believe the region is suffering from a gang problem, but it's more complicated than it seems.

15 hours ago

Washington’s indoor pot grows could be big power suck