The Port of Seattle seeks to boost its green credentials with rooftop solar panels and policies to develop more sustainable operations. The push comes after the Port faced protests over use of a terminal for Arctic oil exploration.
The Port of Seattle is putting solar panels on a Fishermen’s Terminal net-shed as part of a broader push to boost the green credentials of waterfront and airport operations.
Those efforts are outlined in an “energy and sustainability” directive that the five Port commissioners unanimously approved last week. The measure calls for more renewable energy as well as stepping up scrutiny of the environmental impact of new projects. The goal is to become the greenest, most energy-efficient Port in the nation, as well as carbon neutral.
Greening up the Port has been championed by Fred Felleman, an environmental consultant elected to the commission two years ago in the aftermath of Royal Dutch Shell’s controversial use of a Port terminal as a base for offshore Arctic oil exploration.
The Shell lease triggered protests as well as litigation from environmentalists who didn’t want to see the Port support new Arctic oil development. In September 2015, Shell opted to pull back from exploration off Alaska’s North Slope, citing the results from a disappointing summer drilling season.
Felleman wants the Port to take a more ambitious approach to reducing carbon emissions, and keep pace with the city and King County government in regional efforts to combat climate change.
The motion approved last week covers Port properties such as the Fishermen’s Terminal and Bell Street Pier. But it does not apply to container-cargo terminals that are now part of the Northwest Seaport Alliance jointly operated by the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.
Felleman said the motion passed last week will give the commission more information about new projects “so that — when we make a decision to go or not to go — we at least make that decision with our eyes wide open.” It directs staff to come up with a framework for evaluating the sustainability of new Port projects.
It also will propel the agency deeper into alternative energy development already underway with the net-shed solar project. The net-sheds house the fishing nets and gear for the North Pacific Fishing Fleet. The total project cost is about $250,000, and the total annual value of the power produced from 44 solar panels will be about $840 annually.
That project doesn’t get the type of subsidies that benefit residential solar projects, and won’t yield a net positive return on investment. But it helps the Port evaluate the viability of solar energy, according to port officials.
Pending approval of the 2018 budget, a second larger solar project is scheduled next year on the roof of the Pier 69 building.
This solar installation would generate more than 30 times the electricity of the net-shed project, and would be partially paid through grant of more than $300,000 from the state Department of Commerce.
In the future, the Port of Seattle may invest in biogas from landfills as well as solar and wind projects in other parts of Washington.
“Right now, our recommendation is going to be to look to Eastern Washington to create a partnership there,” said Elizabeth Leavitt, the Port’s senior director of environment and sustainability.
The Port’s marine terminal and airport operations use more than 156 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, roughly as much power as a city of more than 13,000 people.
Most of its electricity comes from the region’s hydroelectric dams. By developing new sources of renewable energy, the Port could free up some of that hydropower for other uses, Leavitt said.