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Energy Island: The Port's Power Plan

June 25, 2015

At the Port of Long Beach, the line between what’s good for business and what’s good for the environment has grown increasingly thin in recent years.

Today, it is on the cusp of vanishing altogether.

“That distinction is history,” said Port Chief Executive Officer Jon Slangerup. “For the continued success of this Port and the future of our industry, what’s good for business is what’s good for the environment.”

At his inaugural State of the Port address in January, Slangerup unveiled the Energy Island Initiative – a comprehensive strategy for transitioning the Port to renewable power sources and self-generation systems. Along with creating the ability to “island” the Port to operate independently from the grid in times of emergency or other need, the initiative’s main objectives are stabilizing power costs for terminal operations, further reducing the Port’s carbon footprint, and increasing the competitive advantages of doing business at Long Beach.

“Our guiding principles are security, sustainability and resiliency,” said Port Managing Director of Planning and Environment Rick Cameron. “Energy Island captures a number of measures we’ve already been developing, and it creates a framework for exploring the larger universe of possibilities to advance real energy solutions.”

‘Energy Island’ Goals

Under the initiative, the Port has established five goals aimed at ensuring an ample supply of electricity, alternative fuels and other energy sources as the Port moves toward a zero-emissions operation.

  • Advance green power: The Port will pursue solar, wind, geothermal and the viability of tidal energy to generate its own electricity. Solar panels that provide a clean source of electricity are already a key feature of the Middle Harbor Terminal Redevelopment project and the Port’s new Maintenance Facility.
  • Use self-generated, distributed power with micro-grid connectivity: The ability to generate power independently of the grid is crucial to business continuity in the event of an emergency. Micro-grid controls that are connected to the grid also allow the Port to contribute to the regional power supply, help lower the city’s emissions, and supply power to vital services in an emergency.
  • Provide cost-effective alternative fueling options: The Port will explore options that include liquefied natural gas (LNG) as fuel for ships and locomotives, hydrogen generation, fuel cell technology and related infrastructure. This goal builds on existing progress the Port has made under its Clean Trucks Program and Technology Advancement Program to support drayage trucks that run on LNG, compressed natural gas, and hydrogen fuel cell technology.
  • Improve energy-related operational efficiencies: The Port will explore strategies for maximizing available energy resources, including upgrading equipment and consumption controls, offering energy-efficiency guidance and leveraging available incentives for operational efficiencies.
  • Attract new businesses, create jobs, increase revenue and reduce costs: By advancing new technology and innovation that support the maritime, transportation and energy sectors, stimulating the economy is part and parcel of the Energy Island Initiative. In the area of innovation and job creation, the effort will build on the Port’s existing Technology Advancement Program for demonstrating promising new clean air technology, to accelerate the commercial availability of relevant and promising energy technologies.

A major driver of the Energy Island Initiative is the growing demand for electricity, which is projected to quadruple by 2030. Lease and regulatory clean air requirements – including state shore power rules that require ships to plug in at berth to cut emissions – are fueling demand.

A key example of Port efforts to reduce costs is a 15 percent discount on electricity rates for container, stevedoring and shipping entities within the Port’s 3,200-acre district. Negotiated with Southern California Edison, the agreement is expected to save maritime users more than $350 million over 24 years.

Moving Forward

Transforming the Port into an “island” of renewable energy technologies and self-generation systems is expected to be implemented in multiple phases over about 10 years. The Middle Harbor terminal, which will operate almost entirely on electricity, is on track to become the world’s greenest marine container terminal and a model for cleaner seaport operations throughout the world.

The first step is extensive planning, including development of a Strategic Energy Plan – a new Port planning document to serve as a single framework for its energy programs. Other planning efforts include researching available technologies and incorporating the findings into the Port’s comprehensive land use study, as well as an update of the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan. Work has begun on both.

To support the process, the Port is expanding its partnerships and establishing committees and technical working groups. All phases will involve collaboration with and outreach to numerous stakeholders and agencies: customers and tenants; utilities and energy companies; regulatory and permitting government agencies; the U.S. Navy, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Energy; city officials and departments; labor unions; environmental and community groups; vendors and alternative power providers; and colleges and universities.

Port staff has already conducted preliminary research on LNG as a ship fuel and is currently evaluating micro-grids, renewal energy technologies and funding opportunities. The latter includes grant funding and financial and technical partnerships for energy planning, pilot projects and facilities construction. Additionally, staff is studying state and federal regulatory and permitting requirements that govern independent energy generation and control technologies.

A major planning tool will be the Port’s power demand assessment. Due to be completed this summer, the study is evaluating baseline annual energy use and peak demand of Port operators. The findings are expected to inform every facet of the initiative.

For the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, the Port has budgeted $750,000 to support the initial legwork. The planning phase is expected to take up to two years and include pilot projects for testing specific applications in a port environment.

The Feasibility Test

Taking a hard look at specific energy projects includes a comprehensive assessment of their feasibility. In each case, the Port will consider the potential benefits in a marine environment; capital and operational costs and benefits to the Port, the community and stakeholders; operational burdens on Port tenants; positive and negative environmental impacts; the need for additional infrastructure and related costs; and foreseeable technology improvements and obsolescence.

“It’s not just about whether a given strategy is going to work,” said Port Director of Environmental Planning Heather Tomley. “It’s about whether it’s going to fit within a port operation, what the cost is and what role our stakeholders play.”

For now, the Port expects to conduct at least three feasibility studies: one on LNG fuel siting, cost and demand; another on distributed generation and micro-grid technology; and the third on large-scale wind power projects.

Energy Island sounds ambitious. But so did the Green Port Policy.

“The Port of Long Beach has achieved what many once thought couldn't be done,” said Slangerup, who debuted the new initiative on the 10th anniversary of the Green Port Policy. “We’re taking that leadership to a whole new level.”

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