Solar To Power LA-Berthed Cruise Ships

Cruise ships have long been a target of environmentalists, but there’s change afoot at the big port in Southern California that could improve their reputation a bit. The Port of Los Angeles announced completion of a 71,500-square-foot, 1-megawatt solar power system atop the World Cruise Center. Not only will this massive array – bigger than a football field – send 1.2 million kilowatt hours of electricity to the grid every year, it could cut emissions from cruise ships.

Here’s how that works: According to the port press release, cruise ships will be able to plug into shoreside electrical power instead of running on diesel power while at berth. This “alternative maritime power” (AMP) is now used at some container ship terminals. “Depending on the size of the ship, estimates are that AMP will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by one ton and reduce 85 percent of sulfur oxide emissions out of the air each day a ship is at berth and plugged in,” the port said.

Solar system, Port of Los Angeles World Cruise Centerimage via Port of Los Angeles

Energy Alternatives Division of San Jose-based Cupertino Electric did the installation of the system, made up of 5,140, 210-watt solar modules. Electricity generated is routed to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power through an existing electric meter at the World Cruise Center. The project cost $10.8 million and will save the port $200,000 a year in energy expenses, the port said.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.