• Energy firm eyes geothermal fish farms


    A Philippine-based renewable energy developer plans to venture into fish farming jointly with various aquaculture farms in Mindoro by utilizing geothermal resources for the production of “healthier” and “tastier” fish varieties.

    Under the plan, Emerging Power Inc. (EPI) will allow local aquaculture enterprises to tap steam and geothermal fluid from the Montelago Geothermal Power Plant in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, to produce more than 10 tons of Triple-A tilapia, sea bass and shrimp annually.

    The joint ventures with local fish farms will be launched simultaneously with the commissioning of the $180-million 40-megawatt power plant in 2016. EPI launched the geothermal power plant project early this month.

    Dr. Antonie de Wilde, EPI chief technical adviser, said that the company is now working closely with aquaculture operators in the area and seeking out potential markets for the fish produce both locally and abroad.

    “This will be sold to top resorts and hotels in the Philippines and exported to China and Japan,” he said.

    De Wilde explained that geothermal water will maintain the temperature in water tanks where the fish are kept at 36 to 38 degrees Celsius, which will help shorten the breeding time for fish.

    “Geothermal fluid will also be mixed with the water as it contains natural microorganisms and minerals that make the fish healthier and better-tasting than those bred on chemical-based feeds,” de Wilde said.

    “The microorganisms also make the use of artificial antibiotics like amoxicillin unnecessary for ensuring the health of the fish,” he added.
    Less costs

    By using geothermal resources, fish farmers can save up to 80 percent of fuel costs to maintain water temperature, which make up 5 percent to 8 percent of their total operating expenses.

    The rural location of most geothermal plants also offers other advantages including clean air, fewer disease problems, cleaner water, a skilled and available workforce and often, low taxes, the EPI adviser added.

    A good number of aquaculture farms rely on geothermal resources in Iceland, New Zealand and the United States, home to 28 such farms in 10 states. Arizona, in particular, produces 300 tons of fish per year using geothermal sources, he said.

    “The use of geothermal fluids to grow healthier and tastier fish and shrimp shows there is more to geothermal energy than the production of power. Mother Earth’s bosom can also help us do so much more,” de Wilde said.

    Once EPI’s plans materialize, Mindoro would be home to the world’s second geothermal shrimp farm, modeled after a prawn farm in Kawerau, New Zealand. The prawn farm sits on a 5.8-hectare property next to the Wairâkei power station, on the banks of the Waikato River. Built in 1987, the farm has been producing 20 tons of shrimp per year since 2005.

    Geothermal plants can also be used for other agricultural activities in Mindoro. The steam can help to dry mangoes, coffee and cacao and extract Mindoro pine oil, an essential oil made from the cones and leaves of the Mindoro pine tree and ilang-ilang flower.

    “The traditional process for extracting the oil makes use of either firewood, oil or electricity, which is costly,” de Wilde said.

    “Extracting the oil using geothermal steam will make the pricing of this product more competitive, thus expanding production rapidly and creating more jobs for Mindoro residents,” he said.

    Natural microorganisms and minerals in geothermal fluids can also be used to cure skin problems, he added.

    The Philippines is host to 10 geothermal power plants and ranks second only to the US in the worldwide production of geothermal energy. It is also the world’s largest consumer of electricity from geothermal sources.


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