Energy Efficiency

Published on May 10th, 2010 | by Susan Kraemer


Unlikely California Electricity Hog Could Green the Grid in November

May 10th, 2010 by  

Solar salespeople say that to get more power on the grid, they look for people who would more likely have an urgent financial reason to go solar: people who use a lot of electricity. It is more satisfying helping a real energy hog get off the fossil grid. It is also easier.


Oddly enough – the most environmentally aware people, who are super frugal, and have installed efficiency devices – and have tiny electricity bills as a result – therefor have no really compelling financial reason to change. This is why many solar estimators tend to discount their much greater interest in being green. But one kind of super green greenie proves the exception.

It’s not that the energy-frugal don’t save money by going solar: they just don’t save nearly as much money; and they actually have a lower rate of solar adoption in the end.

On the other hand, here in Northern California, big energy users pay very dearly for their usage. Someone who has high usage actually pays so much more for each and every kilowatt hour than their frugal neighbors – that it can mean a difference between paying 11 cents and almost 50 cents for every kilowatt hour.

The person who owns an aquarium, or bought lots of big screen TVs, or has a swimming pool (which must be pumped, by law; or mosquito control officials will fine them) or is on a dialysis machine, or lives where the heat is unbearable without A/C: these are the kinds of people who use more power and pay much more for it. They are the ones who have the biggest savings and clean up the grid the most when they switch to solar.

But here’s one big energy user you might not have thought of – who would have a real financial reason to go solar.

An indoor marijuana farmer is a huge energy hog.

If the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana growers in California passes, we may see a side benefit: cleaning the state grid. The energy use in Humboldt County has skyrocketed. There are so many indoor pot farms running expensive all-day gro-lights in the county.

If marijuana growing is made legal in November, those farms would naturally be moved outside into the sunshine where nature’s gro-light comes free. And that will green the California grid.

Image Flikr user Linzinator

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

  • @Dave, actually – not really. Charging a (Volt/Leaf type)EV will add between 200 and 300 kilowatt hours a month to an electric bill.

    The kinds of people who will likely be first adopters are the eco frugal who now have bills so tiny that solar estimators pass them by ($50-$80 ish).

    But, add in an EV (about like adding in a pool pump) and now they use enough electricity to warrant getting a residential PPA (Solar City, SunRun, Sungevity) to switch to clean power for $0 down and pay as you go – and save bigtime over the long haul.

    So adding EVs will increase the adoption of solar, by increasing the differential between a solar PPA and staying with the utility.

    Someone with a $500 bill now will pay over $400,000 over 25 years if they do nothing and stay with our utility PG&E. Or they can go solar for $40,000 and save $300,000 (bank loan) or do a PPA and switch for $0 and still save between $100,000 and $200,000.

    The higher the bill now, the more reason to go solar.

  • Dave

    ” that it can mean a difference between paying 11 cents and almost 50 cents for every kilowatt hour.”

    Interesting, isn’t that a huge disincentive to buying electric cars? The electric companies are going to be penalizing you by charging you an exponential amount more for the electricity…

  • You make some valid points about consumer behavior, but the total energy consumption of all the marijuana growers in California is a financial rounding error in the cost of energy consumption.

    The only major obstacle to widespread rapid adoption of residential solar energy systems are the high upfront cost to the end user and the complete lack of traditional bank financing programs.

    Solar Acceptance has designed and developed the very first consumer-financing model that overcomes this obstacle. A multi-million dollar BETA trial is now underway.

    Once this begins to scale the industry will see that it is not about panel manufacturers, integrators, or leasing companies. It is about enabling the consumer to capture the true economic benefits of lower energy costs from a solar system they can finance-to-own at a reasonable rate.

    • Sungevity, Solar City and SunRun all beat you to that model in these states, so that might be hard – but why not try it in the dirty power states where people are stuck with horrible 90% coal power (because no renewable Energy Standard driving clean power from utilities) Indiana, Wyoming, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Dakota and no way out for the renewable future-minded living there.

      Plus fund wind and solar thermal (most pool owners need both) and you have a great business model.

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