Hemp as an energy resource
The hemp plant is robust and grows without much human intervention, and commercially grown cannabis is usually grown in energy-intensive and environmentally controlled greenhouses. The huge electricity needs of commercial cannabis production place enormous demands on power grids, and utilities are short of labor and capital for costly upgrades to meet the ever-growing need electricity.
Alternative energy sources should be considered by any producer
While there is no doubt that hemp has been used as a source of energy for centuries, current discussions focus on its potential as an energy crop. To understand this situation, one must first consider the technical challenges of using hemp as an energy resource, and then take a closer look at its applications and its economic significance.
Virtually any plant or organic matter (biomass) can be converted into fuel. Fuels derived from plant materials are known as biofuels. A study from the University of Hawaii reported in 1990 that the gasification of biomass could supply up to 90% of the energy needs of that State. Biofuels have several critical advantages over fossil fuels:
Plants contain almost no sulfur or a number of other contaminants commonly found in oil that cause air pollution when burned as fuel. Sulfur is a major component of acid rain.
Agricultural crops can be converted into fuel. This makes energy more accessible, creates community jobs and helps boost regional economic independence and autonomy.
Plants use a chemical process called photosynthesis to convert water and carbon dioxide (CO2) into carbohydrates and oxygen. Since CO2 is produced by fuel combustion, biomass production essentially recycles this gas, the main cause of global warming, into a fuel source and thus cleans the atmosphere.
Plant harvesting does not require mining, open pit mining or drilling and will not cause oil spills, so biomass production is better for the environment.
Annual agricultural crops are sustainable sources of energy; they are renewed or renewed each year by a new crop, rather than being regularly drained or depleted, as are fossil fuels.
Agricultural, industrial and municipal wastes can be used as fuel feedstock, reducing solid waste that would otherwise pose a disposal problem.
The negative side of biofuels:
Annual crops are harvested seasonally rather than year round. Biomass is relatively bulky, which requires compaction and increases storage and shipping costs. Considerable capital should be invested in the development of pyrolysis and incineration facilities. Plants need additional processing to be concentrated as fossil fuels.
Overall, the benefits of biofuel far outweigh its disadvantages. And once the raw material has been converted to fuel, it fits perfectly into the existing distribution and utilization infrastructure: tanker trucks, freight cars, pipelines, storage facilities, and so on. Over time, the energy industry realizes more and more that biomass is not just an option, it's the future.
Biomass can be transformed into a wide variety of liquid, solid and gaseous fuels, which in turn can be used to produce electricity. One aspect that makes biomass particularly attractive is that the necessary technology already exists. Existing infrastructure can process, store and transport biofuels with relatively little adaptation or modification.
The dependence on biofuels actually produces a significant economic gain from an ecological point of view, since the exploration, drilling, extraction, processing and transportation of fossil fuels have all been eliminated and the product final is a fuel that burns clean. The main reason that fossil fuels seem to have a price advantage is that the cost of repairing environmental damage is ignored. Why ? because petrochemical energy producers know that it is prohibitively expensive to clean up after them, and that their government allies simply let them get away with it.
As taxpayers learn more about social assistance for multinational energy companies, they will demand that the government reduce or eliminate these subsidies. The combined effect of these changes will result in fairer competition, with stronger economic and environmental incentives for the shift to biofuels. And that does not even take into account the savings in health care that comes with living in a cleaner environment.
Research on the potential for using enzymes to extract hydrogen from plant carbohydrates promises a very clean fuel (when hydrogen burns, its only by-product is H2O: water!), But the process is expensive and the technical infrastructure to efficiently use hydrogen is not yet ready for mass production. Until this obstacle is
Let's look at several complementary alternative sources of energy
The hemp battery
Despite the recent craze, fuel cell technology is an unlikely alternative for cannabis growers because of its astronomical initial cost, short life and high level of expertise required for its operation and maintenance. . However, scientists have succeeded in producing from the hemp plant super-capacitors, which represent an extremely important component for the future generation of alternative energies, such as the hemp pile - they have a large capacity and can also be recharged very quickly ...
Solar and wind energy
Solar energy is still relatively expensive per kilowatt; a considerable number of panels and accumulators are needed to produce significant energy levels. In addition, users need to invest in a large housing stock and rely on the cooperation of Mother Nature. Wind energy is also included in this category. While geographically sound, solar and wind energy are viable options for supplementing electricity needs when used in conjunction with generators.
Diesel generators or
NG / LPG
Despite the high price of fuel, diesel generators are a proven source of energy because of their reliability and longevity. As long as they are maintained correctly, they can be used on average 3 5 years in a row before needing a revision.
With lower fuel costs, NG / LPG generators are by far the most widely used autonomous energy sources in the cannabis industry. These machines are generally more efficient from an electrical and thermal point of view than diesel generators and are the most environmentally friendly generator option emissions. They can also be combined with heat recovery equipment to create cogeneration plants that allow producers to capture exhaust heat and offer low-cost heating and cooling methods through the use of heat-coolers. absorption. In fact, combined heat and power (cogeneration) is an ideal energy solution for indoor and greenhouse applications: not only does it reduce overall operating costs, but it is also more environmentally friendly. capturing most of the emissions and thereby reducing CO2, NOx and other gases in the atmosphere.
Biogas production from hemp could compete with corn production, especially in cold climates such as northern Europe and Canada. Ethanol production is possible from the whole plant and biodiesel can be produced from pressed hemp seed oil. It has been shown that biodiesel production from hemp seed oil has a much lower environmental impact than fossil diesel.
Hemp production as renewable energy
Bioenergy is currently the fastest growing source of renewable energy. The production of "energy crops" on arable land can reduce the dependence on the depletion of fossil resources and mitigate climate change.
However, some biofuel crops have bad environmental effects: they consume too much water and create more emissions than they save.
Sustainable bioenergy production is not easy and a variety of crops will be needed. Industrial hemp is not the energy crop par excellence. However, if grown on good soil with good fertilization, hemp can certainly be an environmentally friendly crop for bioenergy production and for other industrial uses as well.
The result is a demand for energy crops with high efficiency and low environmental impact. This is what is said about industrial hemp.
Large-scale energy uses of hemp
For a long time now, enthusiasts have been promoting the use of industrial hemp for bioenergy production. With its potentially high biomass yield and ability to integrate into existing crop rotations, hemp could not only supplement but also outpile other available energy crops.
As a crop, hemp has good resistance to drought and pests, a well-developed root system that is resistant to soil erosion, and a much lower water requirement than other crops such as cotton. . Hemp is therefore a very versatile fiber that is particularly unique because it contains a high percentage of useful oil and biomass components.
Indeed, the environmental benefits of hemp have been much appreciated, because the cultivation of hemp requires very limited quantities of pesticides. Few insect pests are known in hemp crops and fungal diseases are rare.
As hemp plants shade the soil quickly after sowing, they can get rid of weeds, an interesting trait especially for organic farmers.
Thus, as with any other crop, good agricultural practices are needed to grow hemp well.
Being an annual crop, hemp works very well in crop rotations. It can be used as a windbreak crop, reducing the occurrence of pests, particularly in cereal production. Farmers interested in producing energy crops are often reluctant to link fields to the production of perennial energy crops such as willow. Due to the high self-tolerance of hemp, two to three year old cultivation in the same field does not lead to significant losses in biomass yield.
Indoor VS Outdoor
The cultivation of cannabis requires a large amount of energy, especially for the domestic production of this plant. For example, the lighting levels of a typical indoor installation correspond to those of an operating theater, which is 500 times higher than what is recommended to read a book ...
In addition, these indoor installations require a constant air exchange 24h / 24, which requires a significant amount of energy.
Other specific energy uses include:
- High intensity lighting
- Dehumidification to eliminate water vapor and prevent mold formation
- Heating of the premises
- Cooling of premises
- Preheating irrigation water
- Generation of CO2 through the combustion of fossil fuels
- Ventilation and air conditioning to eliminate waste heat
Cannabis growers have two options: to fund expensive improvements themselves or build their own micro-grids.
Researchers believe that moving cannabis production outward could significantly improve the environmental impacts associated with these processes. Once this change has occurred, we can consider turning cannabis, or hemp, into a source of potential energy.
Converting hemp into fuel
Almost all types of plants or organic matter can be converted to fuels, and the benefits of these alternative fuels compared to fossil fuels are enormous. Here are some advantages:
- The plants contain little or no sulfur compounds or other contaminants commonly found in gasoline. These contaminants are associated with air pollution and the subsequent promotion of acid rain.
- Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert water and carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) in carbohydrates and oxygen. Biomass production recycles CO 2 , the main contributor to global warming, in the fuel source, which is also beneficial for the environment.
- No exploitation, strip mining or drilling is necessary to harvest the plants, as compared to the processes used for oil extraction.
Before producing energy from residues, it is certainly more environmentally friendly to use fiber, oils or other hemp compounds. Even the energy contained in fibrous products can be used when the products become waste.
Recycling plant nutrients in the field, such as biogas residues, can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from crop production.