Geothermal Energy is Becoming More Popular With Aquaculture
In California there are more than a dozen large fish farms that grow tilapia, striped bass and catfish by using warm underground water.
The warmth allows fish to continue to grow throughout the winter and the seafood crops reach market raster as they mature more quickly. The combination of geothermal energy source and aquaculture allows these farms to produce almost 10 millions pounds of fish annually.
Commercial greenhouses are huge spaces where tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables are grown to provide produce during season when the climate is not conducive to crops. Huge commercial greenhouses are also used to grow flowers to be sold in commercial flower shops.
Every spring, garden centers and big box stores sell tens of thousands of small garden and landscape plants to homeowners for spring planting. Heating such large glass framed areas can be extremely expensive and the combination of geothermal energy and aquaculture is cost and energy effective way to provide the necessary warmth.
In the huge expanse of a commercial greenhouse adding geothermal energy to aquaculture can provide a real boost to profitability of the business. This is the result of lower heating costs but also shorter growing times that are the result of proper growing temperatures.
Imagination for Centuries
Geothermal energy has captured people's imagination for centuries. Some American Indian tribes considered areas where geothermal hot springs were present as neutral or even sacred ground.
In many areas of the globe, steaming hot thermal springs have been reputed to cure illness, ease pain and contribute to the health of anyone submersing themselves in these naturally heated pools. In New Zealand, aquaculture have been combined with geothermal energy by the Maoris who have commonly used the water from thermal springs in cooking for generations.
Today in Beppu, Jana, geothermal water is used to heat buildings and factories. There are 4,000 hot springs in the Beppu area and these bathing pools attract as many as 12 million tourists each year. At Mammoth Lakes in California, large pools of steaming water will warm you thoroughly but caution must be used as some hot springs have been known to cause burns to both people and animals.
In the same areas where aquaculture have become common, hot water from the Earth is often piped to commercially built pools and ponds when the natural springs are not easy to reach in a rough terrain or far away from the population.
The ability to use geothermal energy specifically for aquaculture depends on the presence of thermal fields where steam and heated water are close enough to the surface of the land where they can be accessed by our drilling or pumping technologies. Countries where geothermal energy is currently being used to produce electrical power are:
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
- New Zealand
- United States
Not all of these countries currently use aquaculture in combination with geotermal energy but the technology is rapidly increasing the potential for using heat energy from the earth to provide food for the world's population.
What is Aquaculture?
Aquafarming refers to growing aquatic crops such as fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants. Under controlled conditions, the growth medium may be freshwater or saltwater depending on the needs of the species. While commercial fishermen go out into the oceans to harvest shrimp in huge nets, there are also farms where shrimp are grown through aquaculture just as a vegetable crop would be planted, grown to maturity and harvested.
A variety of this type of farm is called aquaponics where fish and plant farming are combined. Often seaweed farming is adopted as part of an aquaponics farm. Eating fish grown on a fish farm has less risk of exposing people to diseases that might be carried and transmitted by domestic livestock.
Quality and size of the fish can be controlled and the popularity of aquaculture is a direct result of consumer demands for high quality protein sources. For landscapers, water features are often requested by clients and the colorful koi fish is widely available at reasonable prices because of the many koi farms in operation.
There are many ongoing studies on the effect of aquaculture and geothermal energy and the results when released often spur the commercial development of more thermal fish farms.
Scientists continue to further test the best temperature levels and methods of using aquaculture to produce additional protein food sources to be sold to the public. Many local and state governments in areas where thermal fields are commonly found are more than willing to pay for such studies.
Growing populations have placed a strain on power grids in some parts of the country. Combining alternative energy resources like geothermal energy with aquaculture provides a way to increase food production year round without straining an overworked commercial power grid.