In this issue:
59 INNOVATORS & INFLUENCERS
74 2017 SPI PREVIEW AMERICA
Influencing solar’s involvement in all emerging markets
In the spirit of our annual Innovators and Inﬂuencers issue, in which we celebrate individuals making great solar strides but working out of reach of the spotlight, I want to call attention to those trying to bring order and efficiency to the legal cannabis industry. I spoke to many dedicated people while researching for my story on how solar can help marijuana growers (see page 12) and got a more in-depth energy efficiency education than I expected.
As someone who doesn’t have any emotional investment in cannabis (if you ﬁnd it medically useful or just like it for fun, cool; if you don’t, cool), I have been very interested in how grow houses use electricity and how solar may help as more states make medical and recreational usage legal. I’ve sneakily (or so I thought) asked questions to solar installers to gauge whether they were looking into this emerging market with incredible power needs. I assumed solar installers weren’t talking to me about it because it was an industry still in the shadows. Now after talking to people in and around the legal cannabis industry, I realize that the relationship between solar and marijuana is very complicated and, frankly, still too new to take root.
I went into my conversation with Anya Gordon at GroTec Builders out of Portland, Oregon, expecting to hear about what a relief solar panels bring to indoor grow operations. Forty-ﬁve minutes later and after a lesson on the “Wild West” atmosphere of the cannabis industry’s energy efficiency practices and standards, I could feel the exasperation and enthusiasm Anya experiences every day. Until grow operations are required to increase energy efficiency, solar won’t be given a second thought. It wasn’t long ago that solar was referred to as the Wild West, so I understood the frustration of getting standards enforced and the excitement of working in an emerging industry with a clean slate.
I sat in on an education session at Intersolar North America titled, “Panels for Pot: Powering greenhouses for marijuana and other indoor crops,” and could tell that the solar and cannabis industries weren’t quite sure how to play together yet. John Morris, who co-founded the Resource Innovation Institute, a nonproﬁt that works with the cannabis industry to promote resource efficiency, spoke during the session, suggesting that solar installers go after marijuana operations looking for a good story and something to market themselves as “greener” because the industry probably wasn’t ready for big solar pitches. I discovered that those contractors I questioned weren’t avoiding the marijuana topic for fear of being associated with it; they actually just weren’t involved yet because it was a complicated situation.
I do believe solar will ﬁnd a home in the legal cannabis industry eventually. As long as people like Anya and John keep ﬁghting for consistent standards across all markets, it will happen sooner than we think. So thank you to all innovators and inﬂuencers in all industries, helping to open the door to more solar power on our grids. As an emerging industry starting to come out of the other side ourselves, we know the struggle and appreciate your efforts at bringing consistency to a developing market.