Friday, December 10, 2010

Los Angeles Port Completes Phase One of Solar Power Plant

Almost three years to the day after agreeing to a settlement with state of California officials to develop a solar energy system, Port of Los Angeles officials on Tuesday announced completion of the first phase of the port's promised power generating system.

The newly completed first phase of the solar plant is located atop the port's World Cruise Center. It is a 71,500-square-foot, one-megawatt system capable of generating approximately 1.2 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, or roughly 3,300 kilowatt hours per day. This is equivalent to the demand of about 175 average California homes, according to federal energy consumption figures.

The solar panel installation is expected to result in an annual $200,000 energy cost savings to the port. The $10.8 million phase one project includes more than 5,100 photovoltaic panels comprising a total of 1.16 million square feet – larger than the size of a football field.

The panels were installed by the San Jose-based firm Cupertino Electric Inc.

The system does not directly feed port facilities, but instead feeds into the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power electric power grid, which the port then draws upon for its electric power needs.

In early December, 2007, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and California Attorney General Jerry Brown signed an agreement calling for the port to create a greenhouse gas monitoring program and a solar power-generating plant at the Port of Los Angeles.

Under the terms of the deal, the Attorney General’s office agreed to file no legal action to stop the expansion of the port's TransPacific, or TraPac, terminal. Attorney General Brown also agreed to issue a letter in support of the TraPac project.

In return, the Los Angeles port agreed to conduct an annual greenhouse gas inventory report on port-generated activity and develop a 10-megawatt solar power plant to provide electricity for port use. In December 2009 the port issued the first annual greenhouse gas inventory report, which covered port-generated emissions in the year 2008.

The first phase of the solar panel project is being funded through a $42 million upgrade project of the port's World Cruise Terminal. Three additional project phases are slated for completion over the next five years.

The cost of the port's full 10-megawatt system, while not cited by port officials, is likely to exceed $90 million. An equivalent 10-megawatt solar cell facility, with enough capacity to power 30,000 homes, is under development in Taipei, Taiwan at a projected cost of $92 million. A 12-megawatt solar power plant in Arnstein, Germany, which opened in 2006 and labeled at the time as the largest solar farm in the world, cost $90 million to construct.