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Indoor Marijuana Grows May Increase Power Needs In California

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The next new challenge for the growing cannabis industry may be the energy required to produce the plant. And while sunlight is the main ingredient for outdoor marijuana growing, electricity is what allows the plants to flourish indoors.

"Five years ago, we were using way too much energy and way too much water," said Christopher Cohen, a marijuana cultivator.

He says heavy taxes and fees on the regulated industry are forcing cultivators to look for ways to save.

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"Power is probably one of the top expenses we have on our side," said Cohen.

Cohen says its costs roughly $50 to cultivate one pound of marijuana indoors.

"Security has been the biggest threat -- keeping everything away from children, which is all really important," said Cohen, "but energy is really important and probably the next phase."

The biggest way to save may be to switch out the bulbs.

"LED lighting has gotten better and better the last five years, and cultivators are switching over," Cohen explained.

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"Their energy needs are probably 24/7 as far as indoor cultivation is concerned," said Ross Hartman with SMUD.

He says the cultivation industry is similar to data centers in that they're always up and running. So far, 22 applications for indoor cultivation have been submitted to SMUD.

"We'll work with them in a consultative process to look at their energy needs and help provide them with that energy they're looking for," said Hartman.

Per the city's marijuana ordinance, cultivation businesses are confined to commercial and industrial zones in mostly the southeast and north areas of Sacramento.

A potentially high concentration of power need in specific areas means SMUD is planning for the future.

"We will look at the infrastructure we have there and make sure that we have the ability to serve those customers," said Hartman.

There are no plans to expand or upgrade any transformers as of yet. Hartman says they have plenty of power to provide for the current number of applications.

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