SOMERSET — There was a giant lever positioned at one end of the crowd. It was the Halloween-prop version of the kind of thing Igor would be ordered to flip.
Wednesday may have marked the official grand opening ceremony for Solar Therapeutics, but the real story is the lever.
“We could be fully self-sufficient right now,” said dispensary CEO Ed Dow. “For now, it’s a good partnership and symbiotic to stay attached to the grid so we can feed energy back, but we can produce all of our own power.”
Solar Therapeutics’ recreational cannabis dispensary has been open since September, but the prop lever, which was brought in to celebrate the activation of the facility’s energy microgrid, didn’t get flipped until Wednesday’s ceremony. In the last few months, the dispensary has worked to prepare the energy infrastructure it’s installed to make the facility more efficient and environmentally friendly.
There’s a 60,000-square-foot solar array on the roof of the Brayton Point Road facility and another on a few acres out back. The facility also boasts a natural gas-powered generator capable of generating 1.75 megawatts of electricity and there are plans to install more.
“Right now, we can produce all we need for our Phase 1, which is what’s running right now. About 1,200 (grow) lights are running right now, and that’s all sustainable on those generators we have out there now,” said Dow. “In Phase 2, we’re going to need more assets.”
Dow describes Solar Therapeutics’ investment in alternative energy as unique within the cannabis industry, and it is.
Extensive building and product costs coupled with a sluggish approval process that must be cleared before any revenues can come in means opening a dispensary in Massachusetts is no inexpensive undertaking.
Installing its own self-sustaining microgrid, according to Dow, only added to the dispensary’s early expenses, but the hope is it will literally pay off soon.
“There’s a big upfront cost, but with the energy efficiency down the road, it pays for itself in a couple years. We’re going to be saving about half of what we would normally pay,” Dow said.
Putting a strong focus on energy efficiency, Dow explained, is particularly important within the “energy hog” that is the cannabis industry. For facilities such as Solar Therapeutics, which plans to cultivate its own cannabis, grow lights and proper ventilation add up to significant utility bills. Compared to other business, cannabis cultivators and dispensaries also discharge a significant amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
According to Dow, Solar Therapeutics has a goal of offsetting over 75% of the carbon dioxide its Somerset facility produces.
“We believe making the upfront decisions to own and operate our own clean-energy source is our responsibility as corporate citizens,” he said. “In time, I believe our sustainability will resonate with customers and be the industry standard moving forward.”