The Port of San Diego is about to get an extreme makeover thanks to some grants awarded to the port’s tenants from the state. Under a $5.9 million grant from the California Energy Commission, seven members of the San Diego Port Tenants Association will receive all-electric forklifts and heavy-duty trucks that emit no greenhouse gases and are nearly as quiet as golf carts.

Sharon Cloward, the president of the tenants association, said it was phenomenal to receive the grant, particularly since this is the first time the group has applied for any state grants. Under the terms of agreement, the California Energy Commission’s grant will be matched by $2.3 million from the seven waterfront businesses, including shipyards, boatyards and cargo handlers, which will receive the new electric vehicles. The grant comes from the CEC’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, which has an annual budget of $100 million for funding transportation infrastructure and vehicles that run on alternative sources of fuels.

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The fleet of seven heavy-duty trucks and three forklifts will eliminate 950 metric tons of greenhouse gases over its lifetime, the same as taking 200 passenger vehicles off the road. The project comes out the Port of San Diego’s 2013 Climate Action Plan, which hopes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2035.

Continental Marine, a Navy contractor, will receive a 20-ton all-electric forklift to replace one of its current diesel-guzzling forklifts. Continental Marine will pick up 20 percent of the cost of the new forklift, which it expects to receive by November 2017 at the latest.

Marine Group Boat Works is set to receive two smaller forklifts, one for its Chula Vista location and another for its site in National City. Todd Roberts, president of Marine Group Boat Works, says he wants to put the new electric forklifts through their paces as the first step to source all energy from renewables.

A test fleet of demonstration vehicles was on display at the Chula Vista location of Marin Group Boat Works, including a 10-wheeled semi-truck that is almost whisper-quiet. Residents of nearby Barrio Logan say that quieter vehicles and fewer emissions at the port will improve their quality of life. But the tenants of the Port of San Diego still have some time to go before they receive the new electric forklifts and trucks. The complete fleet is set to be delivered by late 2017 and early 2018.

The port tenants association worked with San Diego Gas & Electric, which will study how to maximize the use of renewable energy to charge the electric vehicle fleet. Transportation accounts for more than 54 percent of San Diego’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to SDG&E’s vice president of operations, Mike Schneider, and $5.9 million is a good investment in cleaning San Diego’s air and moving the region to more renewable sources of energy.

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