- Animals: fish
- Energy: solar energy
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.
*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