Amplified Farms success story: Custom Incentives Program

“The way we see the cannabis industry evolving now is much more about efficiencies,” explained Steve Squaglia, co-founder and cultivation director of Sacramento-based cannabis producer, Amplified Farms. Along with fellow principals Zach Goodin and Greg Hartnett, they recounted how SMUD’s Custom Energy Efficiency Incentive program not only lowered their cost of operation, it helped increase the output from their facility.

Steve Squaglia, Zach Goodin and Greg Hartnett pose in front of a growing room
Co-founders Greg Hartnett, Steve Squaglia and Zach Goodin
stand in front of their retrofitted grow room.

“SMUD was doing outreach at the time; I think their goal was to find ways to meet the quickly growing need for electricity because our industry has such a high demand on the grid. So, when we met with them, they proposed using LED lighting. We were hesitant at first. We’d done some small work with LEDs before but never at this scale, never ‘flowered’ with them.”

“HPS (high pressure sodium) fixtures are the industry standard and they do a great job” noted Zach, who manages facility operations. “But the HPS fixtures soak up quite a bit more energy than the LEDs and generate quite a bit more heat which requires a lot more cooling. It comes down to using either 1000 watts with HPS versus 660 watts with LEDs.”

To take advantage of SMUD’s incentive program, Amplified Farms agreed to dedicate an entire growing room for LED light only, with SMUD providing a $300 rebate per light for every HPS fixture replaced with an LED.

But that was just the beginning of the benefits Amplified Farms experienced with the program. Since LED fixtures generate less heat, they created a better and more comfortable working environment for Amplified Farms’ employees. More importantly, while LEDs reduced the energy usage, their HVAC system accounted for 36% of overall savings compared to an HPS room that had the same amount of lights and plants.

Retrofitted cannabis grow field 
Successful crop in the LED grow room ready for harvest.

In one flowering cycle, the LED room saved Amplified Farms 9,407 kwh compared to the HPS room. Ultimately, between the LEDs’ lower power consumption and lower HVAC usage, Amplified Farms realized a 25% savings over their HPS room in both cost and energy. The plants in the LED room also achieved higher THC levels and terpene profiles.

Greg, who is director of sales, was impressed with the results. “The lights performed way above expectations, that’s for sure.”

Steve also discovered another advantage LEDs had over HPS lights. “Our SMUD rep explained how we could improve output by going ‘vertical’. He showed us our current footprint and then presented a plan to stack the beds, which is not possible with HPS fixtures because of the heat they generate. Now that we have LED technology, we can think of a vertical solution for this farm. We may be able to fit a 22,000 square foot canopy into a 12,000 square foot building.”

“I’d say using LED’s was eye-opening,” Zach concluded. “I think they are a superior flowering light. And because of the amperage we saved using the new fixtures, we were able to add an additional row in all three rooms. So it was almost like adding another room to the facility. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without the LED fixtures we were able to purchase through SMUD’s incentive program.”