It’s horrible enough that dastardly marijuana growers have taken to squatting in abandoned McMansions and bogarting electricity as part of an ongoing campaign to transform the nation's youth into glassy-eyed, Dorito-chomping pacifists, who, any day now, might flee to Denver, Boulder, or, god forbid, Tacoma.


Now, according to an absurd story by the Associated Press, illegal pot cultivators are “increasingly using solar power to operate large-scale operations in an attempt to remain off the grid.” Quelle horreur!


After I read the AP's “pot farmers go green with solar” trend piece, I was left just a touch confused. According to the story, two — one of them being “elaborate and sophisticated” — pot growing operations that used PV panels to power water pumps have been busted in New Mexico. One of the busts was in 2010 and the other just last month. Sounds like a terrible epidemic to me.


Also two years ago, a string of mysterious PV panel thefts plagued the storied wineries and vineyards of Napa Valley, Calif.  Approximately 10 or 11 wineries were hit in an operation believed by authorities to be “linked to a ring that sold the panels to illegal growers.” A PV panel was snatched from a school as well.


"It's hard to say for sure but we think they were going directly to growers," says Napa Valley Deputy Sheriff Jon Thompson. That, folks, is some pretty damning evidence right there. He adds: “Here we had folks trying to do the right thing and go green and they were getting hit. It hurt, especially when it's $17,000 a panel."


Seventeen grand for a single photovoltaic panel? Really? Did I miss something?


Pete Danko over at EarthTechling had pretty much the same WTF reaction that I did to the AP piece:


So just to sum up, this trend that the AP is warning us of here consists of two cases in New Mexico two years apart, and some solar panel thefts in Napa two years ago that the local sheriff’s department thinks might be related to pot farming.


(But you know Deputy Thompson is a real expert on this stuff — not to mention the AP, which quoted him without apparent scrutiny — because when empathizing with the solar theft victims, he said, “It hurt, especially when it’s $17,000 a panel,” and that’s only about 60 times the actual price of a typical solar panel.)


So okay, maybe outdoor pot farmers in California and New Mexico are using solar panels, pilfered or otherwise, to evade local and federal authorities tipped off by astronomical energy bills being generated in remote areas (as mentioned by Danko, indoor growers are the ones who would really benefit from solar). Or maybe they’re just doing it to mind their carbon footprints and avoid having to use highly polluting diesel generators. I really have no clue. And neither, apparently, does Deputy Thompson. 


[EarthTechling], [SFGate] via [Grist]


Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Pot farmers grow green, go green with solar power
Drawing on a plethora of recent cases and expert insight, the Associated Press runs a trend piece on how outdoor pot farmers are 'going green and trying to be s