Port of Long Beach mulls alternative energies as power demand set to skyrocket

Port of Long Beach breaks monthly and quarterly record

The Port of Long Beach (PoLB) expects its power demand on the electricity grid “to triple or quadruple” by 2035 from increases in shoreside power and electricity-powered yard equipment.

The first of nine electric rubber-tyred gantry (RTG) stacking cranes entered service at the SSA Terminal at PoLB in March 2021, as part of the Zero Emissions Terminal Equipment Transition Project, funded partly by the California Energy Commission Grant.

In an interview with PTI, Matthew Arms, Director of Environmental Planning, said by 2035 the port anticipates the surge in electrical equipment and shoreside power availability to increase demand three-or-fourfold compared to 2016 levels.

“We need to work with our utility provider to make sure that they are bringing green, reliably sourced power because as a complex we are vital to the nation,” Arms said.

Arms continued that the port needs to ensure its terminals are resilient in their power sourcing and highlighted potential areas such as it’s microgrid, battery storage and hydrogen as the “tools in the toolbox” to reach decarbonisation goals.

“Hydrogen could also very well could be part of the solution here,” he said.

The electric stacking cranes, expected to be rolled out “in a monthly sequence” from March, Arms said, plug into the port’s power grid through an extension cord, which provided significant challenges for port operatives to install compared to the mounted diesel engines on previous RTG cranes.

“The rubber-tyred gantry cranes’ purpose is to move around – they want to have flexibility with different stacks,” explained Arms.

“When they’re electrified, they’re tied to a big extension cord, which provides major challenges: a guidance system for where to lay the cord; understanding the pieces of electrical equipment between transformers and substation; and just doing the trenching are huge challenges when we have around six weeks to develop these projects,” he added.

Arms said an additional challenge is working with port community stakeholders to understand who is responsible for ownership of that electrical resiliency – whether that is the terminal, the utility provider Southern California Edison, or the terminal itself.

The partnership with Southern California Edison will be critical with the expected surges in demand in the coming years.

“On the small scale of this, for those specific cranes, utility provider Southern California Edison have to be a partner in the project because we need to make sure that all that connection works and we’re not making things go dark,” added Arms.

The rollout of electric RTG cranes is part of six projects under the ‘Our Zero Emissions Future’ initiative following the grant of almost $80 million from the California Energy Commission and the California Air Resources Board.

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