Thousands of tons of goods pass through the Los Angeles – Long Beach Port Complex each day. Automobiles, sneakers, blenders, T-shirts – the list goes on and on. When taken together, the complex is easily the largest port in the United States and one of the largest in the world.
Ships of all sizes move in and out of the area at all hours, which is why it’s important for someone to serve as referee. That task falls to the Port’s Marine Exchange, which has been tracking ship movements since the 1920s. Back then, “lookouts” armed with binoculars used signal flags and lights to announce arriving ships. Today, the Exchange uses state-of-the-art technology to track all vessels with 100 miles of the San Pedro Bay.
The Marine Exchange is housed in a small hilltop building in Angel’s Gate Park in City Council District 15. Blessed with steady winds and reliable sunshine, it is perfectly positioned to generate its own power. In 2012, the Marine Exchange installed four wind turbines and 286 solar panels, enough to produce 87 kilowatts of energy during times of peak production. The wind turbines and most of the solar panels are located on the building’s roof; additional panels are placed on the ground around the building. Wind and solar now meet all of the Marine Exchange’s electricity needs, with some power leftover to feed back into the grid.
The Port purchased the solar panels and wind turbines through a partnership with CBS EcoMedia, which leverages corporate advertising dollars to sponsor educational, wellness, and environmental initiatives. EcoMedia’s business model allows companies to use their everyday ad spends to fund community projects such as new books for schoolchildren, community gardens, and solar panels. In this case, the Port of Los Angeles decided to take money from its own advertising budget and spend it on solar panels and wind turbines for the Marine Exchange through EcoMedia’s EcoAd program.
The main purpose of the project was to reduce the Port’s environmental footprint. “We’re continually trying to grow, and grow green,” explains Arley Baker, Senior Director of Communications for the Port.
But there are economic benefits, too. The Exchange’s annual electric bill of $20,000 is now history. The annual savings will allow the Port to pay off its upfront investment within six to seven years.
With thousands of trucks, ships, and railcars passing through the San Pedro Bay each day, there’s still plenty of work left to do to green the Port of Los Angeles. The good news is that the Port’s leaders are setting a course for greater reliance on solar power. In addition to the Marine Exchange solar project, the Port’s World Cruise Center boasts a large solar array. And there are plans for additional solar projects in the works. More to come about that in a future post!
Additional stories about the homeowners, businesses, and community groups across Los Angeles that are going solar can be found in Environment California Research & Policy Center’s new report, “Solar in the Spotlight: Stories of Angelenos Investing in a Clean Energy Future”.