A great deal of the marijuana that is produced in the U.S. and Canada is grown indoors. In these growing facilities an environment can be created that is ideal for the cannabis plants. Key factors which may be controlled, include temperature, levels of light and shade, irrigation, fertilizer application, atmospheric humidity, etc.
Unfortunately, the equipment that is used to create these peak conditions requires an enormous amount of energy. The reason is simply the technology required to grow the crops. Specific energy uses include high-intensity lighting, dehumidification to remove water vapor and avoid mold formation, space heating or cooling during non-illuminated periods and drying, pre-heating of irrigation water, generation of carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuel, and ventilation and air-conditioning to remove waste heat. In fact, the $3.5 billion marijuana industry is one of the nation’s most energy intensive.
A 5,000 square foot indoor cannabis facility, for example, will use on average 29,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity monthly, while a local household consumes about 630kWh. In general, it’s fair to say that electricity represents roughly 30% of the total cost of a cannabis operation.
Additionally, many growing facilities were either constructed without large capacity electric infrastructure or are housed in converted warehouses without the necessary wiring for a traditional large scale electric solution. Tecogen Inc (TGEN – $3.28) has a solution for all these issues, as its natural gas powered systems allow growers to avoid costly upgrades of their building’s electrical infrastructure, while saving the operator on both installation and ongoing electric bills.
So it’s no wonder that Tecogen continues to receive more orders for its equipment from places such as California, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Canada where the production and sale of cannabis has been legalized.
Earlier this week, Tecogen sold two TECOCHILL natural gas powered chillers for use in an indoor cannabis growing facility located in Massachusetts.
The units will provide 700 refrigeration tons of cooling (350 tons each), and will be used to cool the 50,000 square foot growing space to offset the concentrated heating effect of the lighting systems. In addition, the thermal energy from the TECOCHILL engines will be recovered in the form of hot water and utilized for dehumidification. The sale, including additional accessories and options, is valued at $750,000.
Cost and Emissions Reductions
The TECOCHILL units are expected to reduce operating costs for this facility by 50% while providing approximately equal reduction in the facility’s carbon footprint (relative to conventional electric chillers). Consequently, the typical payback period for this investment is only one to two years.
In addition, the chillers provide free high-quality waste heat from the engines for heating and humidity control. Moreover, the units will be equipped with Tecogen’s patented Ultera emission control technology. That way, the facility will not only cut its carbon footprint in half (via reductions in energy usage), but also reduce emission of harmful smog-generating criteria pollutants (NOx and CO) to near-zero levels.
Thanks to this cutting-edge emissions control technology, the carbon dioxide (CO2) from the cleaned exhaust stream can be used as fertilizer to improve growing conditions. It’s important to note that plants grow by converting the CO2 that’s found in air to carbon through photosynthesis, and greenhouse plants absorb even more CO2 because of the artificial lighting. Without the use of an Ultera, the exhaust stream would not be clean enough to recycle as CO2 fertilizer, an important feature only TECOCHILL offers.
Indoor Growing Facilities Benefitting From TECOCHILL Chillers
Although this particular customer will use the chillers in the cannabis production industry, there are thousands of farmers with greenhouses or indoor facilities, who grow fruits, vegetables, plants or flowers, that could equally benefit from a similar installation.
In the agriculture space, TECOCHILL’s potential uses are unmistakably large. By running on inexpensive and reliable natural gas, the chillers can help agricultural customers avoid punitive peak electrical demand charges. As an added bonus, customers are assured their greenhouses remain cool and their crops don’t experience adverse temperature fluctuations during power outages, because the chillers are fed by reliable natural gas.
Also, growing indoors is becoming more popular as it has a host of benefits as opposed to traditional gardening outdoors. For example, one can eliminate many parasites that are more common outdoors. In addition, farmers are able grow the same product throughout the year, making greenhouses increasingly important in the food supply of certain countries. After all, plants or flowers can grow indoors where they normally can’t as it may be too cold outside.
Indoor growing facilities often use 1000-watt, high-intensity U.V. lightbulbs. This necessary lighting equipment generates a lot of unwanted heat, which has to be removed from the indoor environment with air conditioners and ventilation systems.
Because in some cases energy bills might represent 30 percent of the total cost of a cannabis operation, growers are all seeking ways to become more energy efficient. Installing TECOCHILL natural gas powered chillers is a very smart method to do so.
The benefits of the chillers are significant. For example, they lower a building’s cooling costs with 30 to 60 percent, by eliminating most of the electrical demand (kW) associated with providing cooling. In addition, they offer optional “waste” heat that is available whenever the chiller is running. This high-quality heat source (up to 230°F hot water) literally comes for free.
Due to the exceptional cost savings that are generated with Tecogen chillers, the units are becoming a necessity in the competitive cannabis industry. More sales are expected. Recommendation BUY.
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