Demonstration of the Feasibility of Solar Energy in Sustainable Aquaculture to Address High Costs in Conventionally Produced Electricity

Final Report for FW09-006

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $10,469.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Western
State: Northern Mariana Islands
Principal Investigator:
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Project Information

Abstract:

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) has one of the highest electrical rates in the nation. The majority of the aquaculture producers in the CNMI produce shrimp and Tilapia using Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) as a result of limited, expensive land and strict effluent discharge regulations. RAS production requires the use of air and water pumps 24/7 to sustain the high density of fish required to make this type of production system economically viable. At the rate that the local utility company charges, producers are having a difficult time sustaining their operations. As a result, this project was initiated to investigate the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar, as an alternative to conventional power generation to lower production costs and improve profitability.

Funding from the Western Sustainable Research and Education (WSARE) Farmer/Rancher grant program was secured to test the hypotheses of sustaining aquaculture production in the CNMI using a renewable energy source. Nine (9) 60-watt solar panels were purchased and installed on the roof of the grant recipient in the village of Dandan on the island of Saipan, CNMI, USA. These panels were connected to a controller and four (4) deep-cycle batteries that store energy from the sun. A 600-watt power inverter was then connected to the batteries which power the three (3) water pumps that circulate water through the filters and back to the culture tanks. As a result, the project coordinator has been running his water pumps for 12 hours on renewable energy and 12 hours from the grid. This resulted in reducing the costs for energy by half, and the savings were re-invested on farm improvements and expansion.

This project is the first of its kind in the CNMI for aquaculture and has given hope to prospective producers that were contemplating, but have not committed to aquaculture, due to the high cost of energy in RAS. The benefits of this project have been shared with other farmers and the CNMI community through the media by way of the field and media day held in November 2010 and workshops in Rota and Saipan in early 2011.

Project Objectives:

*To demonstrate the feasibility of alternative energy systems to other aquaculture producers as a means to reduce energy costs, which comprises 40% of production costs

* To promote sustainable agriculture practices with planned field and media days and proposed workshops

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Michael Ogo

Research

Research results and discussion:

As a result of the Field & Media Day which took place in November 2010 and the articles that followed in the two newspapers that are published in the CNMI (Saipan Tribune and Marianas Variety), there has been a lot of interest generated, where current and potential farmers requested a tour of the project coordinator’s farm. Many questions with regards to the project were asked during the most recent workshop.

The project coordinator has reduced his energy costs by half, from $810 for a six month crop to $405 and has helped renew interest in shrimp and Tilapia farming in the CNMI from individuals that were otherwise discouraged by the high cost of energy.

Producer Adoption:

As a result of the outreach activity of this project, one Tilapia producer in the island of Tinian has installed a renewable system that powers his linear air compressor to provide aeration for his Tilapia using solar power. There also has been a lot of inquiries by current and prospective producers about incorporating the system into their operations or designing it into future farms.

Reaction from Producers:

Reactions from other producers has been positive, and many have requested more information about the project and tours of the farm site to personally view the system.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

The findings of the project were shared with other producers and the CNMI community through the Field/Media Day that took place on November 18, 2010 and the Western SARE workshops that were held on the island of Rota on March 15, 2011 and March 27, 2011 on Saipan.

Field/Media Day:
Title: WSARE Field and Media Day
Date: November 18, 2010
Locations:
Overview – NMC CREES Conference Room, Saipan
Tilapia Hatchery-Mrs. Ines Guerrero, Finasisu, Saipan
Renewable Energy-Mr. Pete Arriola, Dandan, Saipan
Participants: 10

Workshops:
Title: Sustainable Aquaculture Practices in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Dates: March 15 & 27, 2011
Locations:
Songsong, Rota, CNMI, USA
Susupe, Saipan, CNMI, USA
Participants:
Songsong, Rota, CNMI, USA = 33
Susupe, Saipan, CNMI, USA = 32

Media Articles:
Headlines: “NMC CREES demonstrates aquaculture sustainability through field, media day”
Publication: Saipan Tribune
Date: November 22, 2010

Headlines: “The pros and cons of aquaculture”
Publication: Marianas Variety
Date: November 23, 2010

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

With the assistance of the Aquaculture & Fisheries Development Program (A&FDP) at NMC CREES, the project coordinator sought, identified sources and procured the components of solar energy systems (solar panels, controllers, deep-cycle batteries and power inverters) from off- and on-island vendors. While some of these components were available in Saipan, the major components like the panels and the controller, had to be ordered and shipped from a vendor in the mainland United States. This took time because the items had to be shipped surface, and the shipping cost was almost as expensive as the items themselves. The lack of capacity in the region on renewable energy systems delayed the project as well, since the project coordinator had to identify individuals with the appropriate knowledge to help with the design and installation of the system. Technicalities aside, the project has been paying off with the savings on energy cost.

Recommendations:

Future Recommendations

This system was designed and installed with the Alternate Current (AC) powered-water and air pumps that were already in place prior to the approval of this project. As a result, the project coordinator recommends that another project might consider using RAS components that are Direct Current (DC) based-systems that are coming to the market, like ones sold by Keeton Industries in Colorado. Using DC based equipment can streamline the system and add more savings.

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.