Solar Microgrid to ‘Green’ North America’s Largest Port

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The Port of Los Angeles, North America’s largest port, plans to install a $26. 6 million solar microgrid this year, as it moves toward becoming the first marine terminal to operate solely on renewable energy.

The port is building the Green Omni Terminal Demonstration Project in partnership with Pasha Stevedoring and Terminals. It will demonstrate use of zero and near-zero emission technologies at a marine terminal.

“This is a Wright Brothers moment,” said Jeffrey Burgin, senior vice president of Pasha. “We’re going to be the proving ground to change the paradigm of how large industrial facilities can run on clean energy. We’re confident we can show this is absolutely attainable.”

The solar microgrid will include a 1.03 MW photovoltaic rooftop array, a 2.6 MWh battery storage system, bi-directional charging equipment, and an energy management control system.

During a power outage, the solar microgrid will be able to island from the central grid and keep power flowing at the 40-acre facility. It also will supply energy and basic goods to the community and serve as a base of operations for the military in the event of a disaster.

The project also will include energy efficiency upgrades, zero emission cargo handling equipment and vehicles, charging infrastructure, and a dockside vessel emissions treatment system.

The California Air Resources Board is contributing $14.5 million from the state’s cap-and-trade auctions to the project. The competitive grant required matching funds of at least 25 percent. Pasha, the port, and other partners exceeded that threshold with a 44 percent funding match. Pasha has committed $11.4 million in cash and in-kind participation.

A carbon-cutting microgrid

The Green Omni Terminal is being designed with an eye toward improving the health, quality of life, and local economy of Wilmington, an adjacent community recognized by the state as disproportionately harmed by industrial pollution.

In all, the project is expected to reduce 3,200 tons/year of greenhouse gases and nearly 28 tons annually of diesel particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and other harmful emissions from operations at the nation’s busiest container port. The clean air gains equate to taking 14,100 cars a day off the road in the South Coast Air Basin.

“These innovative clean technologies will help clean the air in port-adjacent and disadvantaged communities, and are at the heart of California’s comprehensive effort to meet regional air quality and statewide climate goals,” said Mary Nichols, CARB chair.

Engineering and construction firm Burns & McDonnell will manage the Green Omni Terminal Demonstration Project and serve as the design-build engineer for new energy infrastructure. Los Angeles-based PermaCity will install the solar array, and BYD Company, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, will provide the battery storage system, charging equipment and electric yard tractors.

Other project partners include Clean Air Engineering Maritime, TransPower the Coalition for Clean Air acting as the project’s community advisor; and technical experts from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, and the University of California, Riverside’s College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology.

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The partners plan to build the project in phases and complete it by the end of 2016. They will then analyze and collect data on energy efficiency improvements and cost savings for two years.

The Port of Los Angeles handles general, project and heavy-lift cargoes of all shapes and sizes, including break bulk commodities such as steel and containerized cargo. The partners say this makes the port an ideal laboratory for developing zero-emission solutions for many industries.

North America’s leading seaport by container volume and cargo value, the Port of Los Angeles facilitated $270 billion in trade during 2015.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.


  1. Chris Robertson says:

    Is this project designed for seismic survivability?

    • Elisa Wood says:

      Hi Chris. A spokesman for the port provided the following response:

      Seismic sustainability is one of the goals for the terminal. Our plan is to incorporate back up power sources that can operate independent of the electric grid or natural gas pipelines for fuel in the event of a seismic event.


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