About once a month, the mains power fails at the Bakkafrost salmon production facilities on Vidareidi at the northern tip of the Faroe Islands in the North Sea. The archipelago is not connected to continental Europe’s power lines, and a combination of weak interconnections among the islands, a mix of voltage sources and extreme weather cause regular blackouts on its unstable grid.
Emergency power is critical for any fish farm, but on the Faroes, it is part of the foundation for a successful, growing industry. Bakkafrost and other salmon producers on the Faroes turn out some of the world’s highest quality salmon, and global demand has been booming for this product since 2014. Bakkafrost has been expanding to meet that demand. But it must be able to deal with the regular blackouts.
“Our worst-case scenario is that we lose power. That’s our nightmare,” says Jógvan Hansen, Bakkafrost’s Technical Manager. “If we don’t have power in this plant for perhaps half an hour, then all the fish will die. That’s a catastrophe.”
The effects begin within minutes. When the lights go out, all the pumps and oxygen production stop as well. The fish dive to the bottom of their basins in a panic, using more oxygen and smothering each other. This causes more panic and more fast oxygen use, creating a vicious cycle, says Jógvan Hansen.
Bakkafrost’s short-term losses amount to more than USD 1.6 million – while long-term losses can amount to more than $16 million.