News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Marine Exchange of Southern California Goes Renewable

Powered by oil, but guided by wind and solar. | Photo: Brit/Flickr/Creative Commons License

As long as big ships burn bunker fuel -- one of the heaviest, most polluting crude oil products there is -- shipping will never be able to claim the "renewable energy" banner. But at least now, when container ships and tankers enter San Pedro Bay on their way to the Port of Los Angeles, the people responsible for making sure they don't bump into each other or run aground won't be burning fossil fuels to do so. As of today the Marine Exchange of Southern California, which tracks all shipping traffic within 100 miles of San Pedro Bay, is entirely powered by solar and wind.

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The Marine Exchange is now in possession of 286 solar panels and four vertical-axis wind turbines, which are expected to generate 87 kilowatts of energy -- significantly more than the Exchange's 55-60 kilowatt average use. Surplus energy will go to Los Angeles' grid. The system was installed at a cost of $450,000, some of which was contributed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

"Not only is the Marine Exchange producing its own electricity, it is generating surplus clean energy and giving back to the community by contributing the additional power to the grid," said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Geraldine Knatz.

The wind generators, sited atop one of the highest points in the San Pedro waterfront, are of an experimental design. The waterfront is an important bird area, and the turbines' vertical axis configuration will, it is hoped, be safer for the Marine Exchange's airborne neighbors.

The Marine Exchange, which operates 24/7, tracks over 5,000 vessels entering southern California waters each year. It serves the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, El Segundo, San Diego, and Port Hueneme.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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