How can you make LED grow lights more affordable?

Geographic location is a major driver in who qualifies for a utility rebate and how many rebate dollars are available for specific projects. Photo courtesy of Hort Americas

Hort Americas is working with Current to ensure their customers receive the maximum utility rebates for their LED grow light purchases.

The benefits of using LED grow lights with controlled environment crops are well documented. One of the reasons some growers are reluctant to make the investment in these grow lights is affordability. Horticultural distributor Hort Americas is working with LED grow light manufacturer GE Current, a Daintree company, to ensure its customers are making the right choices to meet their lighting, production and profitability requirements.

“Hort Americas and Current are continually monitoring what kind of financing solutions are available for our customers and their projects,” said Lee Levitt, North American utility director at Current. “This includes utility rebates, grants and loans through federal, state and local municipalities or helping to solve energy supply issues in deregulated markets with the potential ability to leverage a creative financing solution. Our team is supporting and educating the horticulture market by keeping our fingers on the pulse of what is happening in that marketplace.

“In my role at Current and in my dozen plus years of experience doing utility rebates, we deliver with Hort Americas an approach that maximizes the customer experience in utility engagement. We can leverage with our customers the greatest rebate dollars that might be available to them.

We have a proven track record of rebate award success with countless clients across the U.S. and Canada. Over the years, with the support of our partners like Hort Americas, we have delivered millions of dollars in utility rebates back to our customers who completed lighting and/or lighting controls for renovation or new construction projects.”

As the market becomes more saturated with traditional lighting upgrades, indoor grow is a new space that is very appealing to utility companies trying to achieve their annual energy-savings goals. Photo courtesy of Current

Geography is a rebate driver

Levitt said geographic location is a major driver in who qualifies for a utility rebate and how many rebate dollars are available for specific projects.

“Geography is absolutely a driver of these rebates,” Levitt said. “Agencies, whether they are state or federal, or electric utility companies, and the traditional rebate type programs that people are familiar with, present different opportunities for growers depending upon what they’re producing, what the scope of their work looks like and where their facility is located across North America.”

Levitt said scope of work refers to what the project might look like.

“This could be a greenhouse, warehouse, a renovation or new construction,” he said. “This also includes whether LED lamps or tubes are being replaced or new fixtures are being installed. We also help support our customers to make sure they leverage all eligible rebate measures. A project could have a much larger scope where a whole building analysis might make sense where it is affecting HVAC or is it just lighting and controls.

“Current works with Hort Americas to support and leverage the greatest rebate eligibility opportunity based upon what the customer might qualify for. This applies to whatever type of facility it is or where it is located and what barriers, if there are any, based on the facility’s geography that might be present.”

Levitt said the utility rebate program landscape continues to evolve. There are about 20 states with at least one utility company within that state that offers a specific horticulture program incentive. There are also about a dozen states that do not have a specific horticulture rebate program, but will evaluate energy-savings grow projects through a custom or other mechanism of evaluation to determine eligibility.

“My analysis of horticulture grow light rebates has a wide range of award opportunity depending on geography,” he said. “Geography can be a major influential factor on how and if a program recognizes a horticulture project or not. Issues that influence rebate eligibility and award values are wide ranging and can include things like day light harvesting, energy savings, renovation vs. new construction, hours of operation, type of indoor grow facility, replacing lamps/tubes vs. whole fixture upgrade and more.

“Utilities can be very complex around how their rebate program algorithms operate meaning they could be built around a one-for-one fixture change out or they may be based on energy savings calculations around kW or kWh. It’s not really black-and-white. Those are some of the factors that can determine what the rebate amount will be. For all these reasons Current and Hort Americas help support growers maneuver the process so they can maximize their rebate awards.”

Current works with Hort Americas to support and leverage the greatest rebate eligibility opportunity based upon what the customer might qualify for regardless of the type of production facility. Photo courtesy of Hort Americas

More rebate opportunities for horticulture

Levitt said there is rebate program eligibility for growers just like any other energy-efficiency project.

“Horticulture is a unique space and there are and can be significant rebate program dollars available to growers,” he said. “Depending on the size of a project, a greenhouse or warehouse that is considered smaller in scope could qualify for a hundred thousand dollar rebate which could be a lot of money based on project costs. There could be multi-million dollar farms that are massive in size and scope where much larger rebate opportunities can deliver significantly more rebate dollar awards.

“Utility rebates have been around for years, and the traditional low hanging fruit was always lighting. As the commercial market landscape becomes more saturated with traditional to LED upgrade solutions, indoor grow which is a new space is very appealing when it comes to energy-saving goals that utilities are trying to achieve on an annual basis.”

Utility companies can be very complex around how their rebate program algorithms operate. The programs could be built around a one-for-one light fixture change out or they could be based on energy-savings calculations. Photo courtesy of Current

Levitt said utility companies are always looking for energy-savings opportunities that can be recognized within the guidelines of their rebate programs.

“Utility companies are becoming more aware of the horticulture industry and controlled environment agriculture,” he said. “Some of these projects can generate a unique whole-building type of analysis that can affect someone who is doing lighting or lighting controls. The benefits in lighting can also lead to benefits for HVAC utility rebates. There is the potential to stack energy-savings opportunities for all stakeholders around a whole building depending on the
project leading to significant rebate dollars for the customer.”

Even though significant rebate dollars may be available, Levitt said utility rebate programs can be difficult to maneuver because of their complexity.

“Many utilities require pre-approval and engagement with the utility in the early stages of advancing energy-efficiency projects,” he said. “The benefit in engaging with utility programs early helps to make the utility knowledgeable that a potential energy-efficiency project is being completed in their territory. Utility programs are structured with a limited amount of dollars. When those dollars run out, rebate awards end. Achieving pre-approvals where applicable and addressing pre- and post-inspections are all requirements in most utility rebate programs.

“We offer rebate processing solutions and support that allow growers to stay focused on growing. Each project and scope of work is unique and so are the rebate processing needs and support that is required depending upon each customer, what they’re working on and the customer’s unique needs. Current and Hort Americas are familiar with their customers’ needs and goals and help support them so that they can complete and submit the rebate paperwork to leverage those utility rebates and accelerate LED adoption.”

This article is property of Hort Americas and was written by David Kuack, a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas.