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Marine / Salmon producer using solar energy in feed barge trial

Work at the Holms Geo farm in Shetland. Photo: Scottish Sea Farms

A TRIAL using solar energy to power a feed barge is being carried out by a salmon company in Shetland.

Scottish Sea Farms believes the initiative is the first of its kind, and said its aim is to eliminate the need for diesel.

The trial is being carried out at the Holms Geo salmon farm in the waters around Burra.

It has been developed in collaboration with local firm Ocean Kinetics, MMG Welding, StorTera and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Solar panels connected to an ‘intelligent’ storage facility, both located on shore, capture and transfer energy via a cable out to a second storage facility on the farm’s feed barge.

It means the farm’s base load will be powered by solar energy as much as possible, with any remaining requirement met by alternative green energy sourced from the grid.

Area manager for the west of Shetland Robbie Coutts told the company’s newsletter: “This will be our first renewable energy powered fish farm barge.

“The generator will just be a back-up, unlike current hybrid solutions which still depend on the generator for recharging batteries.

“If successful, the project will reduce operational and maintenance costs and carbon emissions, which, in turn, will help improve air quality, minimise noise pollution and enhance the environment for employees and the local community alike.”

Holms Geo was chosen for the trial because of its proximity to the shore, reducing the risk of power being lost during transfer, with the system retrofitted to the existing barge in place of the office area which was moved onshore.

There are also plans to install batteries on the farm’s small workboat, which would in theory make Holms Geo all-electric.

Shetland regional manager Richard Darbyshire said: “Shetland has a big renewables sector and I think there is a great future in this technology.

“We’d like to see it rolled out to other farms, wherever we can get a cable out to a barge.”

Meanwhile Scottish Sea Farms – now the largest salmon producer operating locally after it took over Grieg Seafood Shetland – has had its sustainability efforts recognised at UK level.

It picked up a prize at the Association for Renewable Energy & Clean Technology’s annual awards yesterday (Thursday).

Some other initiatives at the company include reducing single-use plastics by introducing returnable bulk bins, and making the most efficient use of road miles.