LED lighting the best energy-saving tool for cannabis production, according to IESO study

“LED lighting is the single most beneficial method of generating energy savings in cannabis production, both in greenhouses and warehouses,” says Vicki Gagnon, Business Advisor at the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) for more than a decade.

In addition to efficient lighting, a recent study supported by the IESO has uncovered additional opportunities for energy efficiency such as variable frequency drives on supply and exhaust fans, chillers, and dehumidifiers in the greenhouse industry to help growers better manage energy use in their greenhouses.

The IESO ensures the reliability of the province’s power system, balancing the supply of and demand for electricity on a second-by-second basis. The organization assesses Ontario’s current electricity needs, as well as forecasts both short-term and long-term energy requirements and plans accordingly.

Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective option for maintaining a reliable and affordable electricity system, helping to reduce and delay the need for new power plants and transmission lines.

As part of its ongoing planning efforts, in 2019, the IESO completed a greenhouse energy profile study. Through that study, the IESO determined the need to do a deeper dive into the energy consumption of the cannabis sector.

“We want vegetable, flower and cannabis production to be as energy-efficient as possible. We completed the 2019 profile and realized that cannabis wasn’t well documented, so we took a deeper dive,” says Vicki.

Multi-regional study of energy use in cannabis production

For its deep dive into cannabis energy management, the IESO partnered with electric and gas utilities and other organizations from Ontario, British Columbia, Washington, and Colorado to examine the energy demands in greenhouse and warehouse cannabis operations. Project partners include Enbridge Gas Inc., Fortis BC Energy Inc. (formerly Terasen Gas), BC Hydro, and the Resource Innovation Institute (RII), which has an energy management database of cannabis growers across North America. The study has recently wrapped up and Vicki will be presenting the results at the Canadian Greenhouse Conference on Wednesday, October 6th. Join to learn more about opportunities for energy efficiency in cannabis production.

One of the key takeaways from the study, which will be further elaborated upon at the conference, is the impact of transitioning from High Pressure Sodium lighting (HPS) to LED lighting. According to Vicki, this transition has the strongest potential to reduce the energy requirements of cannabis facilities although it has an interactive effect on heating which will be described and researched further.

“In the greenhouse setting, natural gas is used to offset the reduced heat production of LEDs.  You still use less energy overall, but it is an important note. However, when you switch to LEDs in a warehouse setting, electricity is used to offset the reduced heat reduction of LEDs,” notes Vicki.