Blazing a new trail: Canndescent opens first-of-its-kind cannabis cultivation facility thanks to solar power

Canndescent has completed the cannabis industry’s first, commercial-scale solar project, powering its indoor production facility in Desert Hot Springs, Calif. Delivering onsite, renewable energy, the 282.6 kilowatt system uses 734 solar modules on seven different carport structures to energize the company’s historic cannabis production facility, which also earned attention in 2016 as California’s first municipally permitted operation.

Historically, the cannabis industry has chosen between indoor, outdoor, and greenhouse approaches. With the first-of-its-kind solar project, the company creates a fourth choice it calls greendoor that unites water efficiency, energy efficiency, and pesticide-free growing in an indoor format.

As the first cannabis company to power an at-scale, indoor cultivation project with renewable solar energy, Canndescent provides a template for sustainability in an industry where outdoor growers tax water resources and indoor and light dep greenhouse growers consume an estimated 1% of the electricity produced in the United States. Cultivating indoors with solar power, the project marries the crop turns and water efficiency associated with indoor, hydroponic cultivation and the energy efficiency found in other forms of cultivation.

Aside from bridging traditional cultivation barriers, the solar-powered cannabis facility stands as a political iconoclast. It harmonizes the progressive themes of alternative energy and alternative medicine with the conservative theme of private enterprise, creating social impact in an Opportunity Zone.

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To accelerate adoption of solar power and greendoor practices within cannabis, Canndescent will release a white paper in 2Q19 sharing its solar project plans as opensource.

The company invested a combined $3.75m to retrofit its 11,000 sf warehouse for solar and cannabis production and produces an estimated 10,000 pounds of boutique cannabis in a city where 34% of the population lives at or below the poverty line.

Already exceeding The California Energy Commission’s requirement for new nonresidential buildings to have rooftop solar by 2023, Canndescent constructed the project in 8 weeks after a two year struggle to win project approval and financing.

Canndescent’s Chief Compliance Officer, Tom DiGiovanni, said, “Given the restrictions around cannabis banking and lending and the complexities of energy projects and California civil construction in general, this was extraordinarily difficult to pull off. Nevertheless, we got it done and have established a template for the ‘green industry’ to go greener.”

— Solar Builder magazine


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