Powering Ports


Ports are high-traffic, energy-intensive transportation hubs and critical national entry points. In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and augment energy resiliency, the Port of San Diego is planning to install a solar-powered microgrid—a project that could serve as a landmark for other harbors.

The Port of San Diego is one of America’s top container ship ports, each year processing 3,000,000 metric tons of goods though two terminals, the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal and the National City Marine Terminal. The facilities support an array of diverse functions including goods storage, refrigeration, administrative offices, cruise ship centers, marinas, parks, piers, and waterfront businesses. The port’s proximity to the San Diego International Airport and US Department of Defense also makes it a critical support base for military agencies, law enforcement, and homeland security.

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Once installed, the microgrid will have 700 kW of power generation and 700 kW of energy storage. The system will provide the port with islanding capabilities so that in the event of a widespread power outage, it will be able to generate power independently and support port operations, security protocols, and essential infrastructure.

The project is also expected to reduce energy costs by 60%. Specifically, port officials explain that the use of solar-plus-storage will reduce the port’s current 1.5 million kWh per year usage by 850,000 kWh. An energy-efficient lighting retrofit will reduce energy use by another 285,000 kWh a year. A long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) with a solar provider will provide additional long-term savings with energy pricing—about half of the current costs.

Beyond lowering energy costs, officials hope that the microgrid will demonstrate the effective integration of distributed energy resources such as solar, energy storage, electric vehicles, and demand response.

To support the project, the California Energy Commission has reportedly offered $4,985,272 in grant funding, and the University of California at San Diego will contribute $201,963.

What are your impressions? Beyond installations at strategic ports, where else would you suggest that microgrids are deployed? What other critical infrastructure could they support?

For more insight about microgrid project development, we invite you to participate on July 25 in The Three Phases of Microgrid Project Development, a webinar co-presented by HOMER Energy, Distributed Energy, and Forester University. De Bug Web

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