Boulder County values balancing a strong economy with protection of the environment and social equity. To promote prudent land and resource use, Boulder County is collaborating with local marijuana growers to help them reduce their environmental impacts while simultaneously reducing their costs.
Currently, the light sources and cooling systems that are used to grow marijuana plants indoors have disproportionately increased electricity consumption, emissions, and electronic waste generation in Boulder County. Because the majority of electricity in Colorado comes from coal-fired power plants, the dirtiest source of power, Boulder County is taking steps to reduce the impact of this industry on the environment. The marijuana industry has high energy intensity, and has the potential to have a significant impact with regards to climate change.
- Boulder County licensed marijuana cultivation facilities consumed over 5.8 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. That is enough electricity to power more than 750 average Boulder County homes.
- The industry is still rapidly expanding with existing facilities being made larger, and new facilities being built.
- The average electricity consumption of a local 5,000 square foot indoor marijuana facility is about 41,808 kilowatt-hours monthly, while the average consumption for commercial use of that space is 5,750 kilowatt-hours monthly. For comparison, the average electrical consumption of a local household in Boulder County is about 630 kilowatt hours monthly.
- Since the majority of this electricity comes from coal burning power plants, a typical 5,000 square foot indoor grow facility contributes approximately 43,731 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per month to the atmosphere.
Boulder County is requiring commercial marijuana growers to either offset their electricity use with renewable energy, or pay a 2.16 cent charge per kWh. The fee is being put into the Boulder County Energy Impact Offset Fund. This fund is being used to educate and encourage best marijuana cultivation practices with regards to energy usage as well as to fund other carbon offset projects such as the development of more renewable energy. This program is collecting high-quality energy usage data that will provide researchers the tools they need to develop the most efficient lighting and ventilation systems for this rapidly growing industry.