Salmon farms team up to go electric and save 70,000 litres of diesel a year

Two salmon farms in the Mackenzie Basin have joined forces to switch their operations from diesel to electricity, slashing their combined carbon emissions by 96% and opening the door to sustainable future growth.

Mount Cook Alpine Salmon and High Country Salmon are both located on a hydroelectric canal owned by Meridian Energy at the mouth of Lake Ruataniwha, near Twizel.

Despite being a stone’s throw from the Ohau B power station, the canals and surrounding land were not originally planned to support commercial activity. This means that even though salmon farms have been in the canal since the 1990s, they have never had a connection to the national grid. 

Karl French from High Country Salmon says massive diesel generators had provided the power they needed for hygienic production, cold chain management and running a cafe, but with the two businesses burning through a combined 70,000 litres a year, the recent spike in diesel prices gave them an additional push to take action.

“I’d been forecasting our fuel costs to double to as much as $14,000 a month in 2023.  The generators had clearly become an economic as well as a sustainability burden so we knew we had to act,” French says.

Rick Ramsay, Environmental Manager for Mount Cook Alpine Salmon says both companies had wanted to stop using diesel generators for some time, but the cost and complexity of building a connection from a substation 1.5 kilometres from Lake Ruataniwha for just one party meant it had not been feasible.

“We have ​​carbon reduction targets to meet under our Emissions Reduction Plan, and sustainability is core to both our businesses.  We’re operating in a pristine natural setting and need to do everything possible to maintain the quality of our water and environment,” Ramsay says. 

The answer came from Network Waitaki, who worked closely with the salmon farms and local landowners to develop a technical and commercial solution which would work for all parties.

Geoff Douch, Chief Executive for Network Waitaki says “Electricity plays a key role to enable our customers’ decarbonisation plans and this project clearly aligns with our sustainability goals. We enjoyed working with Rick and Karl to deliver this project”.

Meridian’s Paul Lloyd says the company provided encouragement, assistance and resources for the project, including engineering support and land for the new infrastructure.

“Getting businesses off fossil fuels is a major part of our Climate Action Plan.  In many cases, it’s far from straightforward and requires major financial commitment and planning. 

“We’re really happy the farms have reduced their carbon footprints so significantly.  It puts both businesses well on track to meet their sustainability goals and targets,” Lloyd says. 

Meridian Energy estimates the switch from diesel to electricity will reduce the businesses' combined emissions by 96% and save 224 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent every year, the same impact as removing 77 cars from the region’s roads.[1] 

The connection is expected to go live in January, in time for the busy summer season when visitors flock to the Mackenzie Basin for the area’s national parks and outdoor activities.

Karl French says the conversion to electricity has also made it possible for High Country Salmon to expand its future operations.

“We can now look at introducing a bespoke salmon processing facility, and bring in equipment to turn our waste streams into pet food and other products.  It’s going to have really positive impacts across our entire business,” French says. 

[1] Estimated annual kWh usage by the two businesses modelled on current diesel consumption.


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