California: Lightening the carbon footprint of cannabis farms

Consider a typical cannabis farmer, growing an indoor crop.

In a protected, controlled environment, they can grow a profitable mix of high-potency, medicinal marijuana and any number of milder strains appealing to a new market.

But the venture comes with both a business and social overhead: high energy bills and a heavy, carbon footprint.

“It’s a big problem,” said Tim Hade, co-founder of micro-grid company Scale. “It has an impact far beyond cannabis consumption.”

A recent study estimated a single, indoor marijuana plant takes the equivalent of 70 gallons of oil to grow. Energy demand at Colorado’s largest utility grew about 2 percent after marijuana was legalized.

Hade said the growing industry could wipe out gains the country made in the last decade that kept energy consumption stable even as the population and economy grew. As the legalized marijuana industry expands in California, it could seriously challenge state goals to...

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