solar marijuana

Should Solar Be Required To Grow Marijuana In California?

by Robert on November 1, 2010

in Solar Commentary,Solar News

Should solar or wind electrical generation to offset utility bills be required to grow medical marijuana in California? Interesting.

In Colorado, which by many is considered to be a progressive state setting national trends, some cities could require wind or solar power to generate electricity for medical marijuana dispensaries growing.

Colorado House Bill 1284 was created to regulate the business side of Colorado’s medical marijuana industry but may have an unintended side effect of forcing all dispensaries, at a cities option, to use 100 percent wind or solar energy. Is it a problem or an opportunity for small entrepreneurial businesses too really get their green on using solar to grow medical marijuana.

Seems like marijuana growing and solar go hand in hand. What could be sweeter than your meter spining backwards while your meter spins backwards?

State marijuana rules could force green to really go green reports the Boulder Daily Camera. A state bill that would set broad regulations for the burgeoning medical marijuana industry would likely have the unintended side effect of forcing all dispensaries in Boulder to use 100 percent wind or solar energy.

House Bill 1284 contains a provision requiring all dispensaries to grow at least 70 percent of the marijuana they sell.

Boulder requires dispensaries that grow any amount of their own product to offset 100 percent of the electricity they use by subscribing to wind or solar power, connecting to a community solar garden or installing on site solar panels.

The combination of the state and local laws, if left unchanged, would likely mean each of the 100 licensed dispensaries in Boulder would have to go to all-clean solar or wind energy.

That has some dispensary owners, and some city officials, split on the idea. They see requiring solar or wind electricity generation as “A dangerous precedent”.

Several members of the City Council have said the medical marijuana industry should offset the greenhouse-gas emissions generated by the high-wattage growing lamps, fans, ventilators and other equipment required to cultivate the plant indoors with solar.

But Councilman George Karakehian said imposing strict rules for one category of businesses to use solar or wind energy is “setting a dangerous precedent.”

Karakehian, a businessman who owns Art Source International on the Pearl Street Mall, warned his colleagues that forcing any one type of business to use solar renewable energy isn’t fair.

“I don’t feel like it’s good government to impose rules on one group for just an arbitrary reason,” Karakehian said. “There are other big users of electricity. Why aren’t we forcing them to go solar?”

Karakehian suggested that the council singled out marijuana businesses on the electricity solar issue “because we could,” but he doesn’t think he has the votes to change it.

Suzy Ageton and Matt Appelbaum were also among the minority of council members who oppose the move.

“I’m uncomfortable with the fact that solar or wind energy installation requirements are in the ordinance,” Ageton said.

Appelbaum agreed.

“You do not single out one particular type of business,” he said.

Appelbaum said he would likely support a commercial solar energy conservation ordinance that would apply to all businesses over time, but starting out dispensaries at 100 percent renewable solar or wind energy is “a little too much, a little fast.”

He said he’s hopeful he can convince his colleagues to reconsider.

“Maybe we’ll get some more traction on it,” he said. “I don’t think the debate on solar is necessarily done on this issue.”

Despite their opposition, Karakehian, Ageton and Appelbaum voted to approve the new solar energy regulations on second reading last week.

Ryan Hartman, a co-owner of the Boulder Wellness Center, 5420 Arapahoe Ave., said the proposed state and local laws already carry hefty licensing fees that could top tens of thousands of dollars. He’s concerned that the added costs of having to subscribe to Xcel Energy’s Wind source program, or installing solar equipment, would further hurt small dispensaries like his.

“Everyone has this idea that you open up a dispensary and within a month you’re rich,” he said. “I don’t have a car because everything I make goes back into the business.”

He said he wouldn’t mind setting a goal for his company to use 100 percent solar renewable energy panels within a few years, but he doesn’t think the city should mandate it.

Cost vs. benefit

According to officials at Xcel, the average small business in Colorado uses 1,123 kilowatt hours of electricity a month and has a monthly bill of about $122.

According to The Climate Trust, a national group that provides carbon offsets for governments and corporations, an average 3,000-square-foot business emits 34 to 46 metric tons of greenhouse gases a year.

Wind source which, despite its name, doesn’t actually change where a company’s electricity comes from but rather provides funding for expanding renewable energy sources is available at a rate of $2.16 per 100 kilowatt hours, in addition to the regular price of electricity.

Buying enough Wind source to offset 100 percent of an average small businesses’ electricity would add $26 a month to their utility bills, an increase of about 21 percent.

It’s not clear how much more electricity an average marijuana growing operation requires.

Ernie Travis, a co-owner of Boulder Vital Herbs, 2527 Broadway, said his electric bill is about triple the average small business at $600 to $700 a month.

His operation grows about 200 plants at a time, using seven 1,000-watt bulbs and six 400-watt bulbs. He said he’s all for a solar renewable energy mandate. “I would do that in a heartbeat,” he said. “I actually think about the amount of coal it takes to run my garden.” His only reservation, he said, is the added cost for order fulfillment. “Green usually means expensive,” he said.

Under the city’s proposal, auditors would have the right to inspect dispensary utility bills to ensure compliance with the law. It would also give the city a good idea of how much energy the businesses are consuming.

Under Boulder’s proposal, dispensaries would also be allowed to subscribe to a community solar garden.

State lawmakers earlier this month approved a bill allowing the solar gardens, which in concept will allow people and businesses to receive a credit on their utility bill for owning a share of solar power generated at an off-site location.

But it’s not yet known what level of investment in a solar garden a business would have to make to cover all of its electricity use.

Protecting the planet

Councilman Macon Cowles, one of the strongest advocates for requiring marijuana to pay for its own electricity with solar or wind energy renewable sources, said he’s convinced that dispensaries use a disproportionate amount of energy that contributes to greenhouse-gas emissions.

“It seems to me that it’s important that (the medical marijuana industry) not harm the planet in the long run and not make it harder for Boulder” to reach its climate action goals, he said.

Cowles said the electricity for his five-bedroom, 4,800-square-foot home in north Boulder has been 100 percent offset by Wind source power for years. He said the added cost of wind power is mild compared with what the state wants to charge for a dispensary license, and the city’s requirement probably won’t close dispensaries.

“I don’t think going solar is going to push them out of business,” he said.

Cowles successfully lobbied the council to remove the solar or wind power provision from the proposal that would have allowed dispensaries and growing operations to buy their way out of the requirement by purchasing certified Renewable Energy Credits or carbon offsets.

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