|Shrimp farmers are looking for a model integrating solar panels with motors used to aerate their ponds. — VNS Photos Ngoc Diep|
Dau, 59, deputy head of the Hung My Co-operative in the province’s Cai Nuoc District, was one of many shrimp farmers and executives of seafood processing companies in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta who attended a recent conference in Bac Lieu Province on the use of renewable energy in the shrimp industry.
He said that the increase in electricity prices and sudden power cuts were affecting shrimp farming.
"Electricity costs farmers VND50-200 million (US$2,150-8,600) per hectare of pond per crop, or 10 per cent of their total expenses."
“Renewable energy usage in shrimp farming could help reduce electricity costs and protect from the high risk of power shortages in the coming years,” Dau said.
"His co-operative’s 30 shrimp farmers are very keen on investing in solar energy," he said.
Le Tan Loc, 47, a shrimp farmer in Soc Trang Province, is seriously considering installing a solar power system in his 1ha white-legged shrimp breeding farm.
“I’m looking for a solar power solutions provider with good warranty and maintenance services.”
The 8,000sq.m of space above his pond surface would be ideal for installing solar panels, he said.
Le Thi Truc Ly, director of Long Manh Co., Ltd, which is a member of the Bac Lieu High-tech Shrimp Co-Operative in Vinh Hau A Commune in Hoa Binh District, said she was considering building a rooftop solar system or solar farm for her company.
It has a 9,000sq.m breeding pond, and electricity costs VND120-150 million ($5,165-6,460) per month.
“The first thing to consider is the amount I have to invest for a solar power system,” Ly said.
She considers borrowing from a bank but the interest rates are quite high.
Duong Duc Trong, deputy director of the Viet Uc Seafood Corporation (Viet Uc Seafood), a leading shrimp processor based in Bac Lieu, said the company had installed rooftop solar panels in its factory.
Electricity shortages, especially sudden power cuts, could cause great losses to his company, he said.
“The solar panels are expected to help solve the power outage risk and meet the company's electricity demand.”
The company plans to install more panels if the trial proves effective.
Many lenders such as Vietcombank, HDBank, VietinBank Agribank and Viet Nam Development Bank are providing loans for green energy projects at preferential interest rates.
Tran Thi Huong Tra, deputy manager of policy and product development at HDBank, said her bank provided loans of 70 per cent of the cost of buying and installing solar power systems.
“This aims to encourage investment in green energy development in the country.”
It is offering preferential loans at annual interest rates of 11 per cent to households and 8.5 per cent to businesses.
Solar panel suppliers said farmers should consider raising shrimp in greenhouses and installing rooftop solar panels on them, adding that would increase productivity and promote the image of Vietnamese shrimp products in international markets.
Nguyen Vinh Khuong, director of the HCM City-based SolarBK Company’s AI development project, said his company had developed a number of solar power solutions for homes, commercial establishments and industrial parks.
"Our company offers power output guarantees for systems it installs.”
Opportunities and challenges
|A shrimp pond of an enterprise in Bac Lieu City. The surfaces of shrimp breeding ponds can be used for installing solar power panels.|
Vietnam is one of the world’s biggest shrimp exporters.
Last year it farmed shrimp on an area of 736,000ha and produced 762,000 tonnes. Its exports were worth $3.6 billion.
The Mekong Delta region accounts for more than 80 per cent of the country’s shrimp breeding area.
According to the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), the shrimp industry will grow at an average of 8-10 per cent a year in the coming years, leading to an increase in demand for electricity.
Nguyen Van Ly, deputy director of the Southern Power Corporation, said that shrimp farms in the Mekong Delta were facing a shortage of electricity.
"Farmers use electricity meant for lighting to operate equipment used in shrimp ponds, overloading power grids," he said.
"The development of solar energy will help ease the pressure on the national power grid and meet the industry’s electricity needs."
But there are difficulties that cause people to hesitate about investing in solar energy.
For instance, a solar farm needs approval from the Ministry of Industry and Trade or the Government depending on its capacity.
“Procedures for installing a solar rooftop system is significantly simpler than for a solar farm,” Ly said.
As for commercial solar power plants, the price they get for selling their electricity is one of the main barriers to investment in this sector, according to Ly.
Identifying all the barriers and promoting the use of solar power in the shrimp industry requires a policy dialogue between the Directorate of Fisheries and relevant authorities.
But he promised that the power sector would help the shrimp industry deal with these problems.
In reality, shrimp farms require a lot of electricity to operate motors to supply oxygen, without which the crustaceans will perish.
Many recent studies have shown that the energy used for aeration devices on shrimp farms is one of the reasons for global warming.
Nguyen Viet Thang, chairman of the Vietnam Fisheries Society (VINAFIS), said the use of clean renewable energy could help the shrimp industry achieve sustainable development.
“Renewable energy resources, especially solar power, could help improve its competitiveness in the region and world.”
VINAFIS has cooperated with local authorities in the Mekong delta region and many domestic and international organisations to help develop the solar power system in the local shrimp industry.
Among them are Oxfam in Vietnam, the International Collaborating Centre for Aquaculture and Fisheries Sustainability, the EU-funded project “Sustainable and Equitable Shrimp Production and Value Chain Development in Vietnam”, Gender Transformative and Responsible Agribusiness Investments in South-East Asia Programme, and World Wildlife Fund for Nature in Vietnam.
After rushing to connect to the national grid prior to end-June to benefit from price policies, solar power developers have now found that the grid can't handle the extra capacity.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has tasked the Ministry of Industry and Trade with reviewing media reports that many solar farms are operating below capacity due to the national grid overload.