Savannah port wins EPA air quality award for electric gantries

By David Pendered

A first-of-its-kind gantry at the state port in Savannah has won a 2016 Clean Air Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Savannah port, gantries

The Georgia Ports Authority won a 2016 EPA air quality award for its pollution-reducing electric rubber tire gantries. Credit: Georgia Ports Authority/Stephen B. Morton

The gantries that move cargo between ships and docks will be powered by mainly by electricity, rather than diesel. The shift is intended to save money on fuel and reduce the emission of air pollutants.

The new electric rubber tire gantries (eRTGs) are expected to burn 95 percent less diesel than current diesel-powered ones. Electric gantries reduce the emission of air pollutants by 67 percent, according to a report published by sciencedirect.com.

The air quality improvements are to be significant because the production of electricity in power plants is cleaner than the production of energy  on site by a diesel engine.

Furthermore, the gantries are to capture energy from lowering boxes. This is expected to reduce power demand by about 35 percent, according to a 2012 report in shiptechnology.com.

The electric gantries in Savannah are powered in a manner similar to MARTA trains.

The port has installed 480-volt conductor rails. A network of retractable arms will link the power in the rails to the gantries. Each gantry will have the capacity to switch automatically to diesel generators when the gantry is moving from stack to stack. The gantry operator controls all functions.

Griff Lynch

Griff Lynch

The gantry is to operate on electricity when it can, which is about 90 percent of the time. Gantries will run on diesel when they make movements that take then off the power grid, according to shiptechnology.com.

The electric gantries were created through a joint effort by the Georgia Ports Authority, Georgia Power, crane fabricator Konecranes, and Conductix-Wampfler, which manufactures equipment to transfer energy and data.

“The eRTG project is unique and innovative, a model others can follow with GPA’s partners to effectively work together for a common goal to reduce energy usage and diesel emissions,” incoming GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch said in a statement.

The conversion to electric gantries started under the direction of outgoing GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz.

“Until this program, there had been no successful alternative allowing the transition of existing diesel-based yard equipment to electric power,” Foltz said. “In this case, we needed to think outside of the box, and put together a team that could achieve that goal.”

Savannah, gantries, EPA

The 169 rubber tire gantries at the port of Savannah are to operate on electricity rather than diesel by 2026. Credit: EPA

Hope Moorer, general manager of GPA’s waterways and navigation programs, attended the awards ceremony June 28 in Washington to accept the award.

“It is an honor to be recognized in this way by the EPA,” Moorer said. “The award highlights the Georgia Ports Authority’s commitment to operating its terminals in an environmentally responsible manner.”

Back in 2012, when GPA unveiled the first four electric rubber tire gantries, Georgia Power’s vice president of sales, Murry Weaver, said: “Georgia Power’s partnership with the Georgia Ports Authority provides a great opportunity to further research and develop non-road electric transportation while adding value to the port’s day-to-day business.”

The transfer to electric-powered gantries is to be complete within a decade. In August, 45 of the port’s 169 gantries are to run on electricity.

GPA expects to save more than $9 million a year by reducing by 3 million the amount of diesel purchased. The annual reduction in air-polluting carbon dioxide emissions is to be almost 70 tons by 2016, according to GPA.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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