Buying grow lights and want the expensive, energy efficient ones? Heard of energy rebates but don’t know where to start, who to ask, or why someone would pay you to use less energy?
Energy rebates can reduce your capital costs by 30-60% but the process can be complicated and confusing. As a result, many rebate-eligible projects are never completed, or growers end up buying and living with cheaper fixtures that suck energy. This article is intended to introduce cannabis growers to the energy rebate process and what to expect.
Who Are Rebates For?
There is a good chance you are eligible for some rebate if you:
a. Are a licensed commercial cannabis grower with your state
b. Have an commercial electric account
c. Plan to purchase more than 30 efficient lights (but have not yet!)
If you said yes to all three of the above, read on.
Why Pay Me To Use Less Energy?
Cash rebates are paid by your local electric utility – yes the one who sends you a bill each month. Electric utilities pay you to reduce electric consumption because new power plants and sub stations are expensive. By investing in energy efficiency, utilities defer these other capital investments, while meeting the energy needs of their customers. If you’d like more on this subject, check out my post here.
Don’t Buy Lights First
It is very important not to commit to buying lights before you have a pre-approval from the electric utility. The utility wants to be certain their financial support is causing a transaction to take place that otherwise would not have. If you bought the lights before asking about a rebate, they conclude you didn’t need the rebate to buy lights.
The smoothness and success of your rebate process depends on how organized you are. It is best to finalize your scope of work first. Changing your plans halfway through the process can set you back weeks or months and really mess things up. You will need to commit to:
a. Facility layout: Identify the areas for nursery, flower and veg plants. Know your operations and how many hours each day and days each year your lights will be used.
b. Efficient Lights: You need to commit to the exact efficient lights you want to purchase and the configuration of the lamps in your facility. This includes the number of lamps and the square footage of plant canopy each light covers.
c. Baseline Lights: Determining “baseline” lights is different depending on whether or not you already have lights. For lights already hanging, these are your baseline. Easy. However, if you are building out a new facility or adding new canopy, you need to describe to the utility the lights you would have purchased if you had not received their financial assistance. This is a bit subjective but should be whatever is considered industry standard. In 2017, I generally use a 1,000-watt single-ended (high pressure sodium or metal halide) fixture per 16 square feet of canopy, or an 8-lamp T5 fixture per 8 square feet of clones. You can ask a lighting vendor to create a bid for the number of inefficient lights you would have needed in your facility. Or you can find an online retailer and do the math yourself. Your inefficient lights don’t need to be a one to one replacement with your efficient lights but the cleanest applications will have the same total canopy square footage.
Once you have committed to a project scope, it is time to apply for rebates. Ask for a commercial lighting rebate application and approach the appropriate utility staff with the following documents in hand:
a. Copy of your utility bill
b. A bid from your lighting vendor for efficient lights
c. Facility floor plan and lighting layout with efficient lights
Occasionally, utility applications will get into industry-speak terms such as on peak/off peak savings or demand reductions by month or season. If you understand this jargon, great! Otherwise, ask your lighting vendor or an energy expert.
After you submit your application, the electric utility will visit your facility for a pre-inspection. They want to be certain what you said in your application corresponds with real life. They may also be interested in other systems and facility details such as HVAC set-up and if outside air is being used.
Sign Contract & Buy Lights
After your facility is pre-inspected, your utility will send you an official contract by email within a few weeks. This contract might be called a “Pre-Authorization”, “Grant Agreement” or “Utility Incentive Offer”. It is important that it identify a specific dollar amount they are agreeing to pay you. Sign it and get it back to them ASAP. Confirm with the utility staff that you are now able to purchase lights, and then buy them. You should have 6-24 months to install lights and complete your project.
Receive Rebate $
To actually receive rebate money, you need working lights, proof of purchase, and a final utility inspection. For the final inspection, it is crucial your facility looks and behaves exactly the way you said it would in your application. At this point, the utility may or may not send final paperwork for a signature but expect 2-10 weeks until you receive a check in the mail. Easy, right?
Unfortunately, not everyone finds this process exactly easy. Rebate applications can fail for a number of reasons, which I cover in another post. And although I do hope everyone can process utility rebates single handedly, it may not be the best use of your time. Because of this, my company processes rebates for lighting vendors and individual growers all over the United States. Free estimates for rebate eligibility are always available.