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LED horticultural lighting is growing fast in B.C.

Bright orange gerberas growing in a commercial greenhouse
The popularity of BC Hydro's horticultural LED incentive continues to grow, with a wide range of luminaires and plenty of success stories.

Growers across B.C. love LEDs

The LED horticultural lighting space is an exciting place to be. Our incredibly popular incentive offering launched in 2021 has changed things considerably in those two short years. So let's take a look at what we've learned and what you need to know if you're considering making the switch to LED lighting for your crops.

One thing we didn't expect was the demand for LED horticultural lighting to be as big as it has been. BC Hydro senior engineer David Rogers, a world expert in hydroponics with international expertise in horticultural lighting, has overseen the incentive from the very beginning: "It's been way more successful than we thought it would be. It's not just a tiny blip anymore – it's getting some major interest."

Pent-up demand

"We knew there was some pent-up demand for LED horticultural lighting incentives, but it's definitely exceeded our expectations," says Rob Raymond, program manager at BC Hydro. "Customers were asking us for incentives, but we were only going to launch when we were confident in the technology and the potential results. We work closely with DLC (DesignLights Consortium) and when they introduced a new standard for horticultural lighting, we knew it was time."

The success of the incentive offering has also led to some challenges due to pandemic-related supply chain issues. "Lighting prices have risen and we've seen delays in orders arriving on site," says David. "This makes growers nervous, so they might go and buy lighting before getting their incentive approved. But this is a big risk as it could mean they're not buying the optimum lighting for their requirements and it also puts their incentive approval in jeopardy."

There are many biological factors involved in LED horticultural lighting, and each situation is different. So getting it right can make a significant difference to long-term growth.

Success stories

Dozens of horticulture projects have been initiated since the beginning of the program offer in 2021. "We've provided nearly $2 million in incentives and helped customers save over 7.5 GWh," says Rob. "Currently, we've got close to $1 million committed for projects in progress, totaling another 4 GWh of savings for 2023 completion."

Here's how the completed projects break down by crop type:

Cucumbers: 40%

You probably didn't know that there are farmers in B.C. who are leading the world in cucumber production. David Rogers explains: "Thanks to LED lighting, they're producing up to eight cucumbers per square metre, a week. That's unheard of! Cucumbers just can't get enough light – but as always with horticultural crop production, it's the limiting stress factor that holds back the crop."

Flowers and ornamentals: 35%

Unlike cucumbers, flowers and ornamentals in general don't need such high day light integral (DLI) levels in terms of mol·m-2·d-1 (moles per day per square metre). New improved LED lighting controls along with LED spectral tuning can now help floriculture growers to optimize their crops' day length and spectral needs and this may enhance flowering and crop quality and timing schedules.

Cannabis: 25%

Our first major LED horticultural lighting project was with Williams Lake First Nation's Sugar Cane Cannabis. "Cannabis has many varieties and everything – including the lighting – must be extremely specific to avoid disease or crop damage. There's little room for error both for indoor and greenhouse operations", says David. "Cannabis requires high light levels and this makes the LED option very costly. BC Hydro's incentives can make a difference, so they need be factored into your business plans."

The future is bright

To keep customers focused on the most efficient solutions, all eligible lighting technologies need be approved by both DLC and BC Hydro. "One of the things we've tried to do with the program is make sure there are plenty of different horticultural lighting luminaires that meet our efficacy criteria, so that customers can find something that works perfectly for them," says David. "Back in 2021, we had 87 eligible products and today we have over 430. When we raise our efficacy criteria, it reduces choice, but I think by the end of 2023, we'll be able to raise it and still have about 400 eligible luminaires to choose from."

Is your facility ready for LED lighting?

Specialized LED horticultural lighting is undoubtedly something we're going hear a lot more about in the coming years, with many customers applying for the incentive. Be aware that because of this popularity, it can take one to two months to receive your incentive agreement, sign it, and get approval to move forward with an approval to purchase eligible equipment.

To find out more about LED horticultural lighting, contact your Key Account Manager or Regional Energy Manager, or call 604 522 4713 in the Lower Mainland or 1 866 522 4713 elsewhere in B.C.