Growing marijuana in Vermont is now legal, effective July 1, 2018. While I don’t plan on growing marijuana plants in my garden, I do have a modest grid-connected solar PV array in my yard. I produce about as much power as my family uses each year using solar. You may ask yourself what does growing pot and solar have in common?
Going Off Grid
Solar panels have been used for decades to provide power in remote locations. The first market for solar panels in the 1960’s was for satellites that would orbit the Earth. The high cost of solar at the time was not an issue as NASA had deep pockets. With improvements in technology and reduced costs, solar panels were used to provide electricity in remote locations far from power lines. The cost of expanding the power grid or delivering diesel fuel to generators in remote locations was often more than the cost of going solar. As a result, solar came down to Earth serving power needs in remote locations far from the power grid. Today, solar is installed primarily in grid-connected applications on homes and businesses with existing connections to a local power company. The growth in grid-connected solar is driven largely by state policies to support clean energy and declining costs.
Growing Marijuana with Solar
Old timers in the solar industry tell stories about how solar “back in the day” was used extensively by marijuana growers in a region in northern California famous for marijuana cultivation since the 1960’s referred to as the Emerald Triangle. Growers would set up operations in remote locations far from the nearest power lines to avoid detection. At the time, solar panels with deep cycle lead acid batteries provided a low-cost source of power for remote locations. Rumor has it that the solar business in California first got started when retailers found a ready market selling solar panels to area pot growers. Furthermore, some home growers would use solar to avoid a spike in household energy use that might tip-off the police.
Growing pot is expanding rapidly as many states have legalized marijuana. The production of pot is very energy intensive and, given legalization, growers no longer need to set up operations in remote locations far from the grid. This increases the overall use of electricity due to the lights and fans needed for growing marijuana inside. Utility companies are already concerned about meeting the increased demand for power used to grow weed. Meeting the increased demand for energy from growing weed using solar makes a lot of sense. Many growers are investing in grid-tied solar to both reduce the cost of electricity and to support clean, renewable energy.
Many state governments have concluded that smoking weed for both medical and recreational uses should not be illegal. As growing marijuana in legal states increases, solar is a great way to meet the increased energy use. Growing weed in the 1960’s & 1970’s relied on solar energy in remote locations. Today, the energy to grow marijuana can come from grid-connected solar. Many pot growers have already invested in solar to save money on electric bills and to support clean energy.
Regardless of your views on the legalization of marijuana, investing in solar is a great way to contribute to a clean and safe future. I encourage you to visit my website to learn how you can use solar energy in your home.
Steven Letendre, PhD
Go Solar Coach, LLC