Protect cannabis grow facilities from catastrophic power failure

By Luke Streit & Mike Lawless  

Owners planning construction of new cannabis grow facilities will make a sizeable investment in the infrastructure needed to produce legalized medical and recreational marijuana. With their cash crop worth more per gram than gold, it is critical the facility have emergency backup power. Otherwise, thousands of dollars in potential revenue are at risk of going up in smoke if environmental conditions cannot be maintained during a power outage. 

Weather, forest fires, other natural events, and human error all can lead to losses of power. However, planning for the unanticipated will remove the risk from power emergencies. Controlled environment agriculture strategies that implement various emergency and security arrangement systems can help avoid disastrous consequences on overall yields.  

Factors that should be considered when designing and sizing an emergency power system include critical power loads, specific environmental conditions that can damage crops, code compliance, preexisting power reliability, generator capabilities, and security needs. Systems such as C1D1 hoods and exhaust apparatuses that are required by code to maintain operation during a power outage are examples of especially vulnerable aspects that should be addressed.  

A variety of emergency power system options exist, based on the individual facility characteristics and needs. These options include: 

  • Specifically sized generators to provide power for code-required and critical systems during an outage 
  • Generator connection cabinets that allow connection of a mobile generator. This could be coupled with an agreement with a rental company that could guarantee a generator within a certain amount of time (e.g., 24 hours). 
  • Full emergency generator back-up. This can ensure no operational interruption but can be costly and take up significant space. 
  • Hybrid options that include multiple generators sized for more than the minimum required backup power and for prolonged usage  
  • Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) for security systems and C1D1 booths to maintain operation for multiple hours (many C1D1 manufacturers offer optional factory UPS backup systems for up to two hours) 

Efficient consumption of fuel (natural gas, propane, or diesel) should also be examined regardless of the type of system chosen. 

By taking proactive measures to provide emergency backup power, cannabis producers can help ensure successful harvests in one of the most lucrative and promising agricultural industries to emerge in the 21st century. 

Related reading: As cannabis legalization expands, plant-based design will be key for new grow facilities.