Battery and Renewable Power for Oyster Farming

Progress report for FNE23-055

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2023: $29,836.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2026
Grant Recipient: Maine Ocean Farms
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
William Leathers
Maine Ocean Farms
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Project Information

Project Objectives:

This project seeks to demonstrate a prototype system of clean power solutions for oyster farms through seven project objectives:

1) Confirm power needs for the equipment on our oyster farm

2) Design and build a prototype system using readily-available batteries, renewables, and components to power our equipment and floating upweller.  

3) Deploy and test the prototype system on our farm

4) Monitor power generation, usage, and deterioration to assess needs of additional power generation, battery energy storage, weatherproofing, and usability features

5) Make improvements prior to second- and third-year operation

6) Demonstrate equipment and operation to other oyster farmers

7) Document, share, and educate industry participants on results, designs, benefits, and how to deploy similar solutions on their farms


Since oyster farms and other aquaculture sites in general are often sited in either remote portions of a cove or without direct shoreside infrastructure, most rely on generators or gas powered equipment to operate.  While this necessity for integration of power equipment does offer some simplicity in terms of mobility and application, in the long run it means an otherwise low impact and environmentally positive industry has an ever growing fossil fuel consumption and reliance on power generation.  With most aquaculture farms having very limited access, if any, to dedicated waterfront facilities it also means that there is a cost and access prohibitive portion of operating equipment such as a seed upweller or FLUPSY.  Historically these upwellers have been sited at marina or boatyard facilities were there is direct access to shoreside power sources.  That is because the upwellers need to utilize pumps to circulate water through the silos that house the seed oysters and promote steady nutrient flow.  Finding a new way to site these upwellers away from shore and closer to regular farm operations will allow more farms to gain access to their use as well as to the benefits of faster seed growth and efficiency in operation.  Making this a step in the transition to renewable and battery powered systems is a logical and important transition.  

Oyster farmers currently spend an inordinate amount of time and money operating, fueling, and maintaining gas generators to power equipment on the water at their farms. Fossil fuel is the main power source in aquaculture, and its combustion generates a large amount of greenhouse gases and other emissions (Korican, 2022). Even a small oyster farm could have three or more small generators, each creating noise, air, and water pollution through the inevitably leaked or spilled fuel and oil. Our demonstration will provide much-needed alternatives for oyster farmers whose current fossil fuel-dependent systems are noisier, more expensive to fuel and maintain, and run the risk of polluting the surrounding environment. The many benefits of battery and renewable power make it an attractive solution to oyster farmers everywhere.

Our project aims to solve the many financial and environmental risks associated with fossil fuel generators. The resulting electric power solution will enhance the sustainability and resilience of our oyster farm as well as improve the quality of life for our colleagues, in direct connection with NESARE’s mission.

There is a significant opportunity in the U.S., and in particular, the Northeast, to further expand and support the aquaculture industry. Aquaculture is an important and lucrative industry in Maine that has seen steady growth in the last decade. Industry experts anticipate this industry will continue to grow, estimating it will double by 2029 (McEvoy, 2019). At this time, there are approximately 150 lease sites and nearly 700 limited purpose aquaculture (LPA) license sites in Maine.

In this project, we will deploy and demonstrate battery solutions to power on-water oyster farm and harvest operations. The technology now exists to cost-effectively replace these combustion power sources with a suite of battery-powered solutions that can be safely operated in wet environments. These batteries are paired with electric motors and pumps and will be recharged by renewables on the water.

Description of farm operation:

Maine Ocean Farms has been in operation for 7 years. Focused on the cultivation of oysters grown on the surface in floating gear. Our 10 acre lease has the capacity to grow about 2 Million oysters at any given time, bringing around 500,000 oysters to market annually. In addition to the two managing partners there are now three full-time seasonal employees and one part time seasonal employee. Building out our farm infrastructure has been an important part of getting the business up to scale and working to find the right combinations of gear and equipment to do what we need to do efficiently. We have found good processes and cultivation routines to yield a premium product that has found solid reception in the market, now we want to work on refining and improving our resiliency and sustainability. The full resources of our farm will be used in conjunction with this project as it ties in directly to important parts of our daily operations and annual crop cultivation. From our workboats, to our floating work platforms, and sorting and processing equipment to the floating bags, all of our gear ties in directly with the whole farms success.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Randy Labbe - Technical Advisor
  • Nick Planson (Researcher)
  • Nathaniel VerLee (Researcher)
  • Nathaniel VerLee (Researcher)


Materials and methods:

Task 1: Needs Assessment & Design

Maine Ocean Farms (MOF) will work with The Boat Yard (TBY) to assess our power consumption needs and equipment duty cycles.  We will select batteries, solar panels, micro wind turbines, inverters and converters to power our oyster farming equipment. Methods will include the following:

1. Determination of power needs and duty cycles of existing equipment

2. Source required equipment for prototype configurations of battery, renewables, and associated equipment

3. Install the equipment on our oyster farm work dock. 


Task 2: Deploy and test battery-powered systems

The dock with existing oyster farming equipment powered by prototype battery+renewables configurations will be deployed and tested in real-life situations on our oyster farms. Data and feedback from staff will be gathered to address any performance issues and required improvements. Power generation and consumption data will be monitored and tracked using cellular-connected devices. 

Data will be gathered to assess and determine needed improvements of:

1. Is the prototype power and energy configuration sufficient to meet all operational needs of the oyster farm?

  • Do the solar panels + wind turbine generate enough power to sufficiently charge the batteries given real-world weather conditions?
  • Do the batteries have sufficient energy storage capacity to consistently provide sufficient power for the farming equipment?
  • Do the batteries have sufficient real-time power capacity to power all of the equipment needed to run simultaneously at any given time?
  • Does the system operate and support equipment operations consistently in all relevant weather and seasonal conditions?
  • Is additional power and energy available to power other equipment, such as charging an electric workboat?

2. Feedback from staff:

  • What qualitative benefits does the prototype power equipment provide over combustion-powered generators?
  • What detriments or challenges are there?
  • Is there a learning curve to using the new system, and if so, how can training and demonstrations be optimized?


Task 3: Demonstrate Renewable-Powered Oyster Farm Equipment to Other Oyster Farmers

We will bring other oyster farmers to our farms to demonstrate the system and collect feedback and questions.  We will help farmers think through applications on their farms and how to take next steps.

Demonstrations will also be conducted in the winter off-season when farmers have more time. 


Task 4: Outreach and presentation of results (per outreach plan described below)

Research results and discussion:

We have begun addressing the design and sourcing stage of the equipment needed to build out the prototype upweller and power our equipment.  We do not yet have a functioning model to study or data to collect.  Set backs in the timeline of sourcing materials meant a seasonal delay in bringing this project together, we have regrouped and will be focused on getting this upweller operational for the annual oyster seed set in June.  

Participation Summary
6 Farmers participating in research

Project Outcomes

1 Grant applied for that built upon this project
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.