Solar Power to Cut Colossal Cruise Ship Emissions

Good news out of Los Angeles, where the completion of a 1-megawatt (MW) solar power system covering 71,500 square feet will now allow ships docked between cruises to access some 1.2 million kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable solar power instead of using their diesel generators for shore-side energy needs.

Few people realize it, and ship operators don’t advertise the fact, but cruise ships have an enormous environmental footprint – worse by a factor of three, compared to a Boeing 747.

Or, to translate into greenhouse gas emissions, Cruise Line International Association’s prediction – of 13.5 million passengers for 2009 (each responsible for 401 grams of carbon dioxide, or CO2) – means a total footprint of 5.4 trillion tons of CO2 per year or more (about .04 percent of that incurred while berthed).

The solar array is courtesy of the Port of Los Angeles, which manages people and product shipments to and from the City of Angels. Port authorities say the solar power system will save about $200,000 a year in electrical costs, and is only the first step in a larger plan that will eventually see solar panels occupying several as-yet unnamed sites and delivering 10 MW of electricity via 1.16 million square feet of panels for a total cost of $10.8 million.

This first phase is comprised of crystalline solar modules, the most expensive (and most efficient) type of photovoltaic (PV) currently on the market – though thin-film is scrambling to catch up in the latter category – and marks a new wave of energy generation for the shipping industry (pun intended).

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