Devin Cooley sees a lot of innovation in the cannabis industry, and wants to take on HVAC solutions for cannabis grow operations with solar energy panels.
“We can go green while growing green,” said Cooley, SunTrac president and COO. Tempe, Arizona-based SunTrac is solar-powered thermal hybrid air conditioning system that uses 30-40 percent less electricity to drop operating costs and keep space cool.
In the last year, industry regulators and consultants have called for cannabis growers to use sustainable practices.
Grow operations have a long road ahead of them when it comes to compliance and moving out of the black market to adapt to regulations, especially in California. On Dec. 22, California held a state briefing on environmental rules that await growers entering California’s legal market in January.
California’s agriculture department received fewer than 200 applications from growers in December, and has accepted four. “In Humboldt County, where an estimated 15,000 pot farmers grow illicitly . . . only 2,300 have applied for the required local growing permits,” according to the Associated Press.
HVAC, dehumidification and ventilation makes up 50 percent of a grow’s electricity load, and lighting accounts for 33 percent, according to Solar Power World.
Cooley said growers and cultivators can use high-efficiency SunTrac panels to offset cooling costs. With federal legalization of cannabis grows, hybrid products like SunTrac would become eligible for federal income tax credits of up to 30 percent.
Cooley talked about the basics of solar power panels and how they integrate with existing systems.
How can growers integrate renewable energy?
Indoor growers in Nevada and southern California use air conditioning, and we can help manage the indoor cultivation.
Growers are focused on lighting, so it’s an unsatisfied part of the industry. No one is helping to be creative or sustainable with HVAC, even though they are innovative in everything else they’re doing.
Is the energy consistent, even when it’s not sunny?
Integrated systems don’t change the way [the air conditioner] operates. Even if it’s cloudy for a week, there’s no concern for it being detrimental to the grower.
How does the SunTrac panel work?
An air conditioner has a compressor, you squeeze the gas to change the temperature. With SunTrac you can increase the pressure and temperature through the sun and not the motor, because there’s a solar booster for the compressor.
The air conditioner will use less energy and it offsets the need for generating electricity – like a car going 75 mph in fifth gear, but we use less gas to get to the speed.
How can growers get set up with SunTrac panels?
Installation costs between $6,000 to $8,000. The upgrade pays for itself in three years or less. With old air conditioners, they die. But with SunTrac, there’s the opportunity to break even.
We integrate with every standard air conditioning system. We’re brand agnostic to get set up and integrate our product. We’ll upgrade existing systems, and maintenance is easy – there are no heavy requirements.