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Port Electrification–less pollution and more efficiency

This is one of the most important advances in the maritime sector, and a booming trend in our country, especially in cities such as Barcelona or Valencia. Electrification offers important advantages such as: reducing long-term costs, decreasing greenhouse gases, or minimizing noise.

Electromobility is an unstoppable trend within the global market. One of the main challenges of land vehicles, one of the most advanced lines of innovation, is the setting up of a cargo network and maintenance at the level of potential fleets. This another frontier for open maritime mobility, which is already being resolved with the progressive electrification of ports.

This transition affects the small day-to-day activities carried out in the terminal, from cleaning tasks to close logistics, but it especially impacts ships, which will be able to carry out their operations in port with these connections, and recharge their internal batteries. The infrastructure is similar to that of a charging station: through “power connections” at the docks, ships can connect to the network without having to use their own onboard generators. These connectors provide a safe and efficient connection between the port network and the ship by reducing the use of fossil fuels and polluting gas emissions.

There are already many international ports that have taken this first step toward so-called ‘Smart Ports’, but this trend is also gaining ground in Spain, and there are already several port authorities that are opting for this technology, such as Barcelona, Valencia, or Bilbao. In addition, the government is driving this transition with the 2030 Safe, Sustainable, and Connected Mobility Strategy, as well as tax incentives for companies investing in these types of projects.

 

What are the main advantages?

One of the main benefits of port electrification is the reduction of air pollution. Ships and vehicles in ports often use fossil fuels, such as diesel, which emit enormously harmful polluting gases. Using electric and renewable energy improves air quality and reduces the negative health impacts on people.

Moreover, it also helps to foster the transition to a more sustainable economy and reduce dependence on fossil fuels by using green energy sources to produce electricity and encourage investment in cleaner technologies, such as electric motors. All this contributes to the fight against climate change and the creation of jobs in the renewable energy sector.

Another important advantage is noise reduction for near-port communities, acoustic pollution that has to this day affected the environment in the form of constant sounds and the strong vibrations generated by resting ships. Electric motors are much quieter than combustion engines, while new generators and ship loading and unloading equipment will also minimize noise.

Electrification also reduces long-term costs in several ways. The first is that electrifying the network eliminates the need to purchase and transport fossil fuels, as well as the costs of transporting moving parts. Furthermore, electric motors are more efficient and have significantly longer lifespans.

 

The main Spanish ports

In Spain, electrification is a growing trend and is being driven in many ports across the country. For now, several Spanish cities have been defined as being at the forefront of port electrification:

  • Barcelona: This port is one of the pioneers in electrification in Spain and now boasts an extensive power connection point infrastructure for ships. It is also in the process of electrifying its fleet of cranes to run on batteries, reducing noise and contamination.
  • Valencia: Another of the most important ports in the country is also very advanced in this area after having installed a network of charging points for electric ships. These are powered by renewable energy and allow ships to charge their batteries quickly and efficiently while docked in port.
  • Bilbao: In 2019, a new terminal with electric connection for ships was opened and since then, new pieces of electric charging infrastructure have been installed at different points at the port and several docks have been electrified. On top of that, lighting efficiency has been improved and electrical machinery has been introduced.
  • Tarragona: The Port Authority of this city is working on a dock electrification project to install recharging points for ships and trucks. Furthermore, initiatives to improve lighting energy efficiency have also been developed and solar panels have been installed.
  • Algeciras: In 2019, the city was elected by the European Commission to lead the “Smart Green Ports” project, which seek to promote sustainability and innovation in European ports by using green technologies and implementing measures to reduce pollution.
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