When Kathleen Hokanson co-founded Koan Energy Consultants in 2012, her goal was to create a team of “energy experts who work together to better manage energy expense and improve cash flow” for licensed cannabis cultivation clients, she explains. The company now offers sustainable energy management planning, rate tariff analysis, and electric and natural gas supply procurement, among many other things, to help companies develop more sustainable business practices and models.
That’s no small feat, especially in the cannabis industry.
Cannabis farms and other facilities can use massive amounts of energy in their production, though Hokanson is quick to point out there’s no “average” energy expenditure. “It has been our experience that the building structure type, shell, insulation type, class and R-factor will significantly impact the energy consumption used in production,” Hokanson says, adding that a facility’s energy consumption also varies greatly “per geographic location and utility service provider.”
When Koan Energy Consultants steps in to help a cannabis company become even more sustainable, they audit various data, including natural gas in therms per square foot of space (a therm is a unit of measuring heat equivalent to 100,000 BTUs, according to Merriam-Webster), as well as “measuring light intensity, relative humidity, ambient room temperature, nutrients solutions, CO2 concentration, and growing media, pH levels,” Hokanson says.
Throughout her life, Hokanson has felt extreme passion for sustainable energy use.
“In 2018, energy conservation should not be a choice, it should be a mandate,” Hokanson says. “We live in a world of limited and exhaustible natural resources. [And so,] reduced power consumption, costs, and environmental impacts of use should be the priority mandate for every business leader in the legalized cannabis business industry.”
But energy reduction and increased sustainability aren’t just good for Earth, she argues. “Responsible conservation planning lowers costs of energy used in production, cuts down maintenance expenses, extends equipment life, and increases cash-flow,” Hokanson says. Here, from years of helping cannabis cultivators, are Hokanson’s top two energy-reducing tips.
Operate on off-peak hours.
“Operating a grid-connected indoor cannabis cultivation grow site during off-peak demand hours of the day is strongly encouraged,” says Hokanson. Not only can operating at off-peak hours make a company more sustainable, but it can help save the company money.
“Some utilities offer reduced power-rate tariff pricing for off-peak hours,” says Hokanson. “Some peak demand hours begin as early as 7 a.m. and end as late at 10 p.m. Hours and fees vary drastically from one utility to another and one rate class to another based on the energy load profile.” That’s why, she says, “learning the local utility’s peak-demand hours of the day and its costs is an essential key to peak-demand energy management success.”
To take advantage of off-peak hours, you should “install power production equipment on-site for use during peak hours of the day,” Hokanson says. “Natural gas fueled co-generation combined heat and power equipment is a ‘closed-loop’ system that we have been recommending to indoor agriculture and cannabis cultivators. The additional benefits that exist beyond power include cooling, heating, dehumidification and CO2 production.”
Store energy for later.
Hokanson says that there is energy-storage technology available that you can install and use in your facility to reduce your energy demand. The technology “creates energy that is then stored for future use during peak-demand hours of the day,” she explains. “The equipment runs during less expensive off-peak hours of each day to create energy at a lower cost.”
A proper system combines multiple elements of sustainable energy use: avoiding peak demand charges, as well as lowering CO2 up to 40 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions over 50 percent.
We have recommended the “thermal” battery solution of Ice Energy for years because their equipment is easily recycled and sustainable, and the product doesn’t contain hazardous or toxic materials—in contrast to traditional battery technologies. An Ice Energy’s smart Ice Bear unit integrates with existing or new 4-20 ton HVAC rooftop units and existing ductwork of any size of indoor grow facility reducing cooling costs up to 40 percent.
Top photo courtesy of Adobe Stock