Energy, Power

CHP is a cost-effective solution for cannabis production

Combined heat & power (CHP) is a reliable source of electricity and power for cannabis owners, which need a constant and reliable source to ensure their plants quickly grow.
By Gas Technology September 27, 2019
Courtesy: Energy Solutions Center

Cannabis cultivation requires a massive electricity load to maintain optimal lighting and other growing conditions. Not only are electricity costs high, but many grow houses require expensive and time-consuming electric service upgrades just to get started. It is not only crucial to grow plants, but to grow them quickly.

Combined heat & power (CHP), also known as cogeneration, is a possible solution because CHP uses natural gas to generate electricity onsite. The waste heat recovered from power generation can be used to meet other energy needs in the facility, reducing overall energy costs. In some applications, CO2 from the exhaust can be recovered and used to provide a CO2-rich atmosphere that enhances growing capability. Waste heat from the engine is captured and delivered to the facility through a hot water loop that can store the energy and deliver it to the facility when needed for air conditioning and humidity control.

For cannabis producers, relying on CHP rather than traditional power is beneficial if there is an unexpected power interruption, according to a Kinsley Group white paper. The industry, which is full of potential as a growing market, will eventually reach a point where energy efficiency is crucial. CHP is a more efficient and economical way to meet overall energy needs. CHP requires only 100 units of input to supply 85 units of energy available for grow house operation, whereas obtaining the same 85 units of energy conventionally from electric and natural gas utilities requires more than twice as much energy input. The system also must supply all heat and electric needs with a defined peak capacity.

Traditionally, the delivery of heat and power are through separate processes. However, those separate processes can lead to wasted energy and high utility costs. Generating electricity at a distant power plant causes the release of a large amount of energy into the environment; also known as “waste heat.”

This graphic shows two ways to achieve 85 units of energy for cannabis production. On the left, electricity is provided by the electric utility. The electric utility or natural gas supplier, or both, supply energy needed for heating, cooling and dehumidification. Depending on whether the facility needs heating, between 266 and 300 units of energy are needed to supply 85 units of available energy. On the right, CHP generates needed electricity. Resulting thermal waste energy is used for heating, hot water, cooling and dehumidification. Only 100 units are needed to achieve 85 units of available energy. Courtesy: Energy Solutions Center

This graphic shows two ways to achieve 85 units of energy for cannabis production. On the left, electricity is provided by the electric utility. The electric utility or natural gas supplier, or both, supply energy needed for heating, cooling and dehumidification. Depending on whether the facility needs heating, between 266 and 300 units of energy are needed to supply 85 units of available energy. On the right, CHP generates needed electricity. Resulting thermal waste energy is used for heating, hot water, cooling and dehumidification. Only 100 units are needed to achieve 85 units of available energy. Courtesy: Energy Solutions Center

The hot water can directly produce chilled water through an absorption chiller. The chilled water is used for cooling and dehumidification. Some hot water may be needed to reheat the air after moisture has been condensed out.

CHP is used in many other industries and typically has a 3-to-5-year simple payback for a 24/7 operation. It also requires little time to set up and there are no grid availability limitations or electric service upgrades. The system can be designed precisely to meet facility power needs, which is crucial for cannabis producers. The power must be constant and cannot have any unexpected downtime because that could hurt the crop’s quality.

– This article appeared in the Gas Technology supplement.

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