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November 18, 2017

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Weed consultants offer cost-saving tips for pot growers

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Richard Vogel / AP

In this Thursday, April 20, 2017 photo caretakers oversee a grow room for medical marijuana at ShowGrow, a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles.

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Brandy Keen with Surna Inc. speaks on a panel at the Las Vegas Indoor Ag-Con on May 4, 2017.

Marijuana cultivators across Las Vegas and the 28 states where pot is legal could save money and reduce their carbon footprint by investing in more energy-efficient, eco-friendly growing systems and techniques, said indoor farming experts at an annual Las Vegas convention.

Speakers added that less expensive but less efficient systems end up costing cultivators more in the long run because of increased energy costs.

“There’s vast room for improvement, even here in Las Vegas,” said Brandy Keen, founder of Colorado-based marijuana consulting company Surna Inc. “There’s just not a lot of institutional investment.”

The speech came on the showroom floor of the annual Indoor Ag-Con expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center last week. The three-day, industry-only trade show welcomed over 1,000 attendees for its fifth year in the valley.

Keen, whose company works with cultivators across all 28 states where marijuana is legal, recommended reclaiming condensate from cooling systems to save on energy and reduce water waste.

Keen said cultivators spend extra money using light during peak energy rate times for electricity providers, which in Las Vegas are usually from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. She advised aiming for times when energy rates are cheapest, usually during early-morning hours, to avoid extra costs. She also advised against lighting all grow rooms at once, saying cultivators should rotate between rooms to avoid recording high peak production rates.

“Often your peak usage is based on the highest amount of energy used at one point, even if that just lasts for milliseconds,” Keen said. “If all of your lights come on at once, your peak usage is going to be much higher than if you turn them on separately, at different times.”

Lighting accounts for about one-third of the carbon footprint left by marijuana cultivation facilities, followed by ventilation and dehumidifying operations at 27 percent, air conditioning of facilities at 19 percent and transportation at 12 percent, according to Kurt Parbst of Envirotech Cultivation Solutions, a Richmond, Calif.-based consulting group.

Parbst and Keen both recommended water-based cooling towers and products for regulating temperatures in cultivation facilities instead of traditional air conditioning, because water “has a higher heat capacity than air."

“That means I can absorb a lot more BTUs into water without the temperature rising,” Keen said.

Contrary to popular belief, energy efficient marijuana facilities can not only have a positive effect on Nevada’s economy, but also on its environment, Parbst said. Besides generating millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state, marijuana plants naturally absorb carbon dioxide out of the air.