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New Haven Harbor Debuts Its Heavy-Duty, All-Electric Cargo Mover

The $7.5 million electric crane will help the city forgo around 350,000 gallons of diesel fuel in its lifespan. The machine is the largest of its kind to run entirely on electric power.

On a platform suspended nearly 40 feet above New Haven Harbor, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont got a first-hand look Monday, March 18, at the latest piece of machinery designed to help the state meet its ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

From the platform, a gigantic green arm swivels over the docks, barges and cargo ships of the Gateway Terminal with the Port of New Haven. Attached to the end of the arm is a cavernous metal bucket, large enough to easily scoop up the governor's state-issued SUV and deposit it into one of the awaiting ships.

At the bottom of the structure, a line of red cable runs underneath the pier and onto land, where it hooks up the rest of the region's power grid.

The cargo mover, built by the German firm Sennebogen, is the largest machine of its kind to run entirely on electric power, according to the manufacturer. It was installed by Gateway in December utilizing a $3.1 million in state grants, replacing an older diesel-powered crane that belched carbon dioxide and other smog-forming pollutants into the air. New Haven is one of only three ports in the country equipped with the newest Sennebogen machines.

The total $7.5 million cost of the all-electric mover included infrastructure upgrades that allowed Gateway to draw enough power for the machines' 500 kilowatt motor, which uses enough electricity to power several hundred homes.

With the infrastructure already in place, Gateway plans to eventually replace its other diesel-powered crane with a second all-electric model, according to the company's president, Greg Baribault.

Over the course of its lifespan, each of the electric cargo handlers will forgo around 350,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

"We'd like to get to a point where we can unload a ship with an electric crane, put it on an electric truck, bring it to our warehouse and unload it with an electric forklift and store it in our warehouse until it goes out to an end user," Baribault said.

During his tour on Monday, Lamont acknowledged that Connecticut and the other states sharing New England's electric grid will need to vastly increase the supply of available, renewable electricity if they plan to meet their deadlines to slashing carbon emissions by mid-century.

While industrial users such as Gateway account for just 8 percent of the state's greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2021 report, the simultaneous transition to electric vehicles and growth of other energy-intensive users is expected to place incredible strain on the region's power grid.

"We're going to need more electric capacity, this is a small piece of that need, but nothing compared to data centers and AI and the eventual electrification of the transportation system," Lamont said. "It's something we're thinking hard about right now."

Gateway is also the operator of the State Pier in New London, which was recently retrofitted to become a hub for offshore wind power. Lamont also pointed to discussions surrounding more distant possibilities, such as importing more hydropower from Quebec or even expanding the output of Connecticut's Millstone Nuclear Power Plant — though both of those options remain years away from reality.

In the meantime, Baribault said that the move to electrify Gateway's operations in New Haven is expected to result in savings on both fuel and maintenance.

While the Sennebogen's 50-ton lift capacity is slightly less than a traditional crane, its longer arm and speedier maneuvering means that crews can also save time loading and unloading vessels. Baribault said the difference between a crane and a material handler depends "more or less how you use it," though cranes typically involve cables supported by a latticework structure.

"Even though you lose one or two tons each cycle, you're doing three cycles for every one cycle on that one," Baribault said.

On Monday, the machine was being used to load scrap metal into a barge destined for Charleston, S.C., where its cargo was to be offloaded and recycled into steel coils and billets. In addition to exporting scrap metal, Gateway's New Haven facility also imports steel products, lumber and asphalt both domestically and from ports as far away as Turkey.

New Haven is the first of 21 port facilities operated by Gateway's parent company, Enstructure LLC, to be equipped with an all-electric cargo mover according to CEO and founder Philippe De Montigny. He said the company eventually plans to roll out similar systems throughout its network of ports.

(c)2024 The News-Times (Danbury, Conn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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