Energy saving in small ports

Outcomes of the Ports Energy and Carbon Savings (PECS) project

Eugène de Kok, editor HZ Discovery

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How can small and medium-sized ports save energy and reduce their CO2 emissions without paying the highest price? Outcomes of the Ports Energy and Carbon Savings (PECS) project. That was the key question in the Ports Energy and Carbon Savings (PECS) project. They use relatively little energy and often have enough space to install energy-saving systems," says Jacob van Berkel, lector of the Delta Power lectorate at HZ University of Applied Sciences.

HZ was a knowledge partner with the University of Ghent, research institute Cerema in France and the University of Portsmouth in the Interreg 2 Seas project that ran from 2017 to 2021. They conducted research in the marina in Hellevoetsluis, at the IJmond environmental agency and in the seaports of Ostend in Belgium, Dunkirk in France and Portsmouth in the south of England.


They are all small ports compared to Rotterdam or the North Sea Port. In total, Europe has about 1250 of these kinds of ports. Like the major ports, they have to meet the targets for energy savings and C02 reduction. That in itself is a difficult task, says the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO), because there are many different parties involved and they have different interests in the port areas. One of the additional problems for this category of ports is that they do not have enough money or space to apply existing sustainable techniques, because these are usually designed for large ports. They also have little or no access to subsidies for this type of investment. Finally, staff lack the knowledge and time to learn about methods for reducing the use of fossil fuels in a cost-effective manner.

During the project period, eight pilots with sustainable technologies were carried out in the ports, which serve as examples for similar ports. In Ostend, this involved a medium-sized wind turbine and a floating energy pontoon from the company Blue Power Synergy that also serves as a jetty.

Pilot projects

Other projects included a small energy platform in IJmond, a new, energy-efficient link-span (the floating connection between ship and quay) in Portsmouth, and small wind turbines and floating solar panels in Hellevoetsluis. "A rich variety of systems, partly comprising existing techniques that we have applied in new environments," says Van Berkel about the pilot projects.

Waste processing

The port of Dunkirk has a large chemical industry. As such, it was an out-of-the-ordinary case for PECS. The participants here wanted to use steam from the waste processing plant to generate electricity. IndaChlor made the system. "There were some setbacks initially, but it is now in the start-up phase," explains Van Berkel.

For the Port of Portsmouth, another problem in particular threw a spanner in the works. "Brexit has hampered us the most during the survey period. That frustrated me enormously", said Jeremy Clarke, pilot/ assistant harbourmaster in Portsmouth during the closing conference. "Nevertheless, we have been able to take a small forward step with our new link-span. I am still hopeful that we will meet our target of being energy neutral by 2050."

Calculation models

Where the ports invested in the pilot projects, the knowledge institutes developed four calculation models, which are available free of charge to every port authority in Europe through the PECS website. Van Berkel created a tool that helps to assess the technical potential of reusable energy sources. The available sources in ports are waves, the tide, sun and wind. "The last two are by far the most important." If operators enter a number of data, such as usable water and land area and electricity consumption, they can see which source has the most potential for them. The other three tools allow ports to do an energy audit, check how they can be more energy efficient and put together an optimal mix of methods to reduce their CO2 emissions.

Lector Jacob van Berkel (Delta Power):

'Large ports have by far the greatest potential for savings'

Pleasure cruise locations generally have a modest energy consumption and reasonable space to install energy-saving systems. Van Berkel himself was involved in the pilot project with the floating solar panels at Marina Cape Helius in Hellevoetsluis.

Underwater life

These were installed in the northern part of the harbour that is not deep enough to moor in. The panels float on the water in a special construction. It is an open system so that (under)water life is not or hardly affected. Together, the panels generate 27,000 kilowatt hours, representing a fifth of the port's total energy consumption. The city council wants the port to be energy-neutral by 2040.

PECS' goal was to achieve between ten and twenty per cent energy savings. "That turned out to be too ambitious, mainly because our systems were too small for the larger ports. It is more about a few percent on average." One of the most important results of the project is that the technical and economic potential of sustainable techniques in ports is now better known. The willingness of ports to invest in low-carbon systems and renewable energy sources has also increased, as has their knowledge of the subject. In addition, some thirty per cent of the small and medium-sized ports use the tools to calculate potential savings. According to Van Berkel, there is sufficient potential to become more sustainable. "But in large ports like Rotterdam and Antwerp there is a lot of industry. That is where by far the most potential for reducing our CO2 footprint lies. If you really want to become more sustainable you have to look at the industry."