Solar panels energize Edmonton cannabis facility

Solar panels energize Edmonton cannabis facility

Lisa Johnson
Updated: November 12, 2019

Edmonton-area Freedom Cannabis will be growing cannabis using energy partly generated from what it claims is the biggest rooftop solar panel installation in the country.

“It’s an exciting time for all of us to see all our work come to fruition and to be sharing this milestone together,” said Troy Dezwart, executive director and co-founder of Freedom Cannabis, who will flip the ceremonial switch on Tuesday.

A total of 4,574 solar modules energized in the next few weeks will produce a maximum capacity of 1,830 kW for the company’s 126,000 square foot facility in Acheson, 20 kilometres west of Edmonton. It cost $2.6 million, and took about 2-1/2 months to install.

Indoor growing facilities like this one are highly controlled growing environments, and they rely on artificial lighting, which can be energy-intensive.

It made sense for the company to try to minimize that energy consumption as much as it could, said Dezwart.

“We think on a relatively large scale in terms of the company we’re tying to build and the impact on consumers with the types of products we’re creating. We want to create a company that we can be proud of and be a leader in many different spaces — including in sustainability.”

The system will offset about 1,041 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, supplying about eight per cent of the building’s annual power consumption.

In 2017 when they began considering a project like this, the team at Freedom said “obviously there’s a benefit to the environment — it’s a big motivator for us — but also how does it impact our operating bottom line?” Dezwart said.

With the help of Energy Efficiency Alberta, which supplied a grant of almost $1 million and partnering with Enmax Energy, it made financial sense.

Based on current demands, the installation is expected to reduce electricity costs by approximately $200,000-$300,000 annually.

The company is aiming for environmental efficiencies across the board, including through a program that aims to recycle up to 80 per cent of the water used in the facility. It also recently unveiled fully recyclable packaging tins that use liquid nitrogen to inhibit the growth of mold, yeast, and aerobic bacteria. Cannabis packaging, which must conform to Health Canada guidelines, is often criticized for its excessive packaging.

Freedom is also gearing up to celebrate other important milestones, harvesting its first crop to bring it market in December and later expanding its capacity with a large scale research and development lab.


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