A clone marijuana plant for sale is displayed at CannaMedicine in Salem, Ore., on Oct. 1, 2015. Oregon's growing marijuana industry is taxing the power grid. Pacific Power blames marijuana grow operations for seven transformer blow-outs since July and Portland General Electric says about 10 percent of their transformer blowouts are from grow operations. (Brent Drinkut, Statesman-Journal via AP)

Oregon marijuana grows are causing problems for the state’s electrical grid

Oregon marijuana grow operations have taken grids above capacity, blowing out seven transformers since July and causing outages and equipment damage, utilities say

SALEM, Ore. — Indoor growing operations for legal marijuana businesses are causing problems for Oregon’s electrical grid, according to officials from electrical utility company.

Pacific Power said Wednesday that Oregon marijuana grow operations have taken grids above capacity, blowing out seven transformers since July and causing outages and equipment damage, reported The Statesman Journal.

The problems are a remnant of marijuana’s black market past, when substandard electrical work powered the lights at growing sites.

Portland General Electric has had similar problems, according to spokesman Steve Corson. He said anecdotal reports from PGE crews show about 10 percent of their transformer blowouts are from growing operations, with about 400 blowouts each year.

To curb the problem, utility companies are asking marijuana growers to talk to power providers before starting home or commercial operations to make sure electrical systems are operating correctly.

Just one or two in-house growing operations on a circuit could overload the local grid and cause an outage, according to Pacific Power spokesman Tom Gauntt.

Even a small operation with four plants and standard lights “is like hooking up 29 refrigerators that run 24/7,” according to Pacific Power safety director Roger Blank.

Some growers, like Shango Premium Cannabis owner Shane McKee, have decided not to take any chances. Although he disputes Blank’s estimate, McKee said he wants to make sure his operation doesn’t cause problems.

He keeps a full-time electrician on his staff and regularly speaks with his utility company and an electric engineer.

“Ten years ago I didn’t have any experts I could go to for regulatory advice,” explained McKee. “Now, when the fire marshal comes, we welcome them. We want to get the right permits, use contractors and pay our taxes. We are the only industry asking for more regulation.”

He said he has blown out a transformer in the past but now has a much better system and uses special equipment to ease strain on the grid.