Port of Oakland pushes forward with clean energy project as it eyes net zero target

California’s Port of Oakland has revealed the approval of a $2 million contract for the design of a new, clean energy project at the Oakland Seaport.

The project includes electrical infrastructure comprising solar generation, battery storage systems, a fuel cell, and the replacement of a substation and connecting circuitry.

The port approved hiring Burns & McDonnell, an engineering design consulting firm with expertise in power resiliency and clean energy, for the design of the electrical infrastructure components.

This is a major step toward our goal to make the Oakland Seaport a zero-emissions operation,” said Port of Oakland Maritime Director Bryan Brandes.

Once the design is in place, the port will be able to move toward constructing the new substation and the accompanying infrastructure. The latter will integrate renewable power to support the port’s goal of transitioning to all-electric, heavy-duty trucks and cargo-handling equipment, eliminating reliance on fossil fuels in cargo handling operations.

The new infrastructure is intended to serve the former Oakland Army Base and Outer Harbor sites, bolstering the maritime area’s electrical grid resiliency.

“Providing electrical infrastructure systems to support zero-emissions equipment and operations is essential to decarbonizing the Oakland Seaport and delivering air quality and community health benefits. The port is continuing to work with regional, state and federal partners to advance and implement clean energy and zero emissions initiatives throughout the port,” the port said.

In December 2021 the Port of Oakland received a federal Port Infrastructure Development Program grant award from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The $5.2 million grant from the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) is intended for electrical power upgrades as the port seeks to eliminate emissions from its maritime operations.

The port said at the time that it would seek additional funding to advance its clean energy aspirations from the state of California.

Related Article

In 2019, the port approved an initiative to create a zero-emissions seaport laying out its transition strategy in The Seaport Air Quality 2020 and Beyond Plan.

Oakland has been active in making its cargo handling sustainable and it has established a shore power system that plugs ships into the electrical grid at berth in line with ever stricter regulations from the State of California Air Resources Board (CARB).

Namely, in 2008 CARB’s regulations mandated that air pollutants emitted from container, cruise, and refrigerated cargo ships docked (at berth) at six California ports be reduced by 50% starting in 2014, 70% starting in 2017, and 80% starting in 2020. Grant funding awarded to the port requires emission reductions that are higher than those specified by CARB regulations.

Data from the port covering the first quarter of 2022 shows that out of 278 total port calls, 160 vessels (58%) were connected to shore power.

Source: Port of Oakland

In addition, over 15 battery-powered big rigs have been put in operation at the Oakland Seaport transporting cargo containers, and thirteen massive cargo handling cranes have been converted to hybrid engines.

The Oakland seaport is the fifth busiest container port in the U.S.