Commercial pot growers paid GVEA more than $500,000 over the past year

The commercial marijuana industry is increasing demand for electricity in the Interior. Golden Valley Electric Association membership includes 47 licensed marijuana growers, who paid the co-op more than half-a-million dollars for power over the past year.

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Figures released this week by Golden Valley show a steady month-to-month growth in revenues from commercial marijuana cultivators who do business in the GVEA service area. The growers paid a total of about $7,600 in August 2016; and by last month, their payments had grown to a total of just over $92,000.

“Golden Valley has seen a continuous increase in the amount of kilowatt hours used by marijuana-grow operations,” Golden Valley President and CEO Cory Borgeson said. “And dollar-wise, the amount of revenues coming in from those growers has increased as well.”

Borgeson said some of the operations are fairly large and require industrial-scale components to handle the amount of electricity needed to run grow lights and maintain climate control.

“Many times, the customers will need to come in with engineer’s reports, because they’re fairly large loads and they take fairly large transformers,” Borgeson said.

Fairbanks grower Nathan Davis says that’s true – and that’s why he worked with an engineer from the very beginning, when he was first planning his 21,000-square-foot growing operation located in an industrial area on the city’s south side.

“You don’t build a facility of this size without have an engineering firm involved,” Davis said. “So, we had our ducks in a row – we knew what size transformers we needed, and we knew what they wanted from us and we provided it.”

Davis said he uses energy-saving technology when he can, like the LED fixtures that comprise about a quarter of his 300 growing lights. But he still runs up a hefty monthly light bill.

“We’re running at full capacity at our facility right now,” Davis said. “And our monthly power bill comes in just under $20,000.”

Borgeson said the co-op tracks the growers’ electricity use, based on the information they provide when they apply for service. And he said GVEA knows if the growers have been licensed. That information is readily available on the state Marijuana Control Board’s website. And Borgeson said so far the growers have been good customers.

“We’ve had no problems or any issues with our marijuana growers,” Borgeson said.

Borgeson talked about the revenue from pot growers during last month’s GVEA Board of Directors meeting. He provided a spreadsheet of those earnings over the past year upon request by KUAC.

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Tim Ellis is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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