TORONTO — A cannabis company has unveiled what it claims is the largest solar panel array in the Canadian pot business.
Alberta-based Freedom Cannabis has a 1.8-megawatt rooftop set-up made of 4,574 panels at its facility west of Edmonton.
The system was supplied by Alberta-based utilities company Enmax and will offset more than 1,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year, the company said.
“In the regulated cannabis industry we try to mimic Mother Nature by creating as natural an environment indoors as possible,” Troy Dezwart, co-founder of Freedom Cannabis, told CTV News Channel.
“So this requires a tremendous amount of energy for things like the air handling units, the lighting systems, nutrient delivery systems and a lot more. These are the things that we’re trying to offset with alternative energy sources.”
The solar panels will supply roughly eight per cent of the building’s annual power consumption and cut costs by $200,000 to $300,000 annually.
“This strategy will supplement our operating costs for power by up to eight to 10 per cent, so it is something that in time will save us costs on power requirements,” Dezwart said.
The entire system cost Freedom Cannabis $2.6 million to build, but nearly a million of that came from a provincial rebate program known as Energy Efficiency Alberta, that has since been cancelled by the UCP government.
Asked if the strategy of moving to solar-power was cost prohibitive for other cannabis companies, Dezwart said a “lot of companies are challenged with just surviving in this industry.”
“It (the rebate) definitely made a big difference and made our decision easier,” he said.
“I think that it still makes sense for other companies. The return on investment may be a little bit longer time period, but I still think it makes a lot of sense.
“We hope that other companies will follow suit.”
Freedom says it has other initiatives underway to reduce its footprint, including water remediation and offering 100 per cent recyclable packaging.
“We’re also looking at some co-generation programs to create power using natural gas and biofuels,” Dezwart told CTV News Channel.
The company’s first crops are expected to go to market in December.
— With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Jeff Lawrence