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Taming the Beast: Getting the Most from Your Electric Bill

This article, written by Kristina Etter, was originally published on Cannabis Tech on February 14, 2020.

Recent studies show that commercial cannabis cultivation, despite not even being federally legal in the United States, is consuming almost one percent of the nation’s energy grid, and taking a whopping three percent of the electricity in the state of California alone.

Without question, electricity is a significant but necessary expense for indoor agriculture, regardless of the vegetation being grown. In the cannabis industry, growers average between $150 to $210 of electrical costs per pound of cannabis produced. Without knowledge of lighting optimization, many growers can expect to lose up to 50 percent of their profits to their utility bills.

In a white paper provided by Lift and Grow, Jordan Miles, CEO of Agentix, said, “Efficiency is everything and only those with that front of mind at all times will survive the cannabis industry in the long run.”

However, optimizing your lighting through precision grow light spacing can help you maximize yields, reduce labor expenses, and get the most from your energy expenses.

MATHEMATICS, PHYSICS, AND NASA SCIENCE

Utilizing a study by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, Lift and Grow’s white paper explains the importance of a phenomenon known as the “inverse square law.” For cultivators, this means appropriately spacing the light fixtures from the cannabis canopy to achieve the best lighting for the crop.

As shown in the study, the inverse square law denotes that the energy twice the distance from a light “passes through 4 times the area that it did at [half] the closer distance, so it’s brightness is four times fainter.” In other words, light disperses and loses intensity the further away it is from the canopy, and plants can be losing valuable light if lighting fixtures aren’t adjusted regularly.

Lift and Grow’s white paper warns, “Cultivators that don’t follow the inverse square law through precision spacing can greatly mismanage electricity usage.”

HORIZONTAL SPACING AND CROSS ILLUMINATION

Although the spacing between light fixtures and the canopy is critical, cultivators shouldn’t overlook the importance of horizontal spacing. Applying a practice known as “cross illumination” by lighting engineers can help growers achieve the most uniform, consistent lighting in their grow rooms.

Essentially, by ensuring the proper spacing, both vertically and horizontally, PAR light rays from each fixture combine with the rays from adjacent sources, creating the perfect balance of intensity for the plants to grow and produce maximum yields. Precision lighting controls are the most effective way to optimize the lighting in your grow space.

In a case study, Lift and Grow warns of a costly scenario:

“Let’s say a company is spending $10,000 per month on electricity for grow lights, yet they have their lights positioned too high to give the plants 100% of the light they need. In fact, the diminished PAR light reaching the garden is only providing 80% of this need. The problem is this company is paying for enough electricity to easily push the garden to its potential. However, 20% of this electrical expenditure is lost because 20% of usable PAR light is improperly angled and spread out beyond the canopy. The error costs this business $24,000 per year in wasted electricity.”

PRECISION LIGHTING CONTROLS

Manually maintaining the proper lighting distance from your plants as the crops grow, means staff-hours, labor expenses, and risk of serious injury to your staff. Working at elevated levels, usually on a ladder, near high-voltage equipment, and water puts your employees at risk each time the lights need adjusting.

With automated, movable light systems, like Lift and Grow, your staff has the ability to control the grow light positions down to a millimeter. With nearly three decades of experience and a deep understanding of industrial lift systems, Lift and Grow allows cultivators to manipulate their grow lighting for consistent, maximized usage of PAR light output by employing the sophisticated practices of the inverse square law and cross illumination.

The bottom line with indoor growing, more efficient usage of PAR light equals more efficient plant growth. In a similar vein, more efficiently used light equals less wasted money. Lift and Grow is here to protect cannabis cultivation companies by ensuring that a bountiful ROI on electricity is consistently realized.

Watch this webcast with Lift & Grow to learn about their solutions and how they can help take your grow automation to the next level with lift systems designed for making cannabis grows efficient and safe.

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