Welcome to the Santa Cruz GreenWharf!


Location:  Santa Cruz Wharf, Santa Cruz, California

Purpose:  A Sustainable + Green Santa Cruz Wharf

Originally built in 1914, the Santa Cruz Wharf, a wood frame structure supported by over 4,528 wood pilings, begins at the shoreline and extends through the intertidal zone into the ocean a half-mile.As the longest timber pile wooden wharf on the US coastline, the Wharf is uniquely situated in the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary to act as a base for energy and climate-related projects.  The GreenWharf refers to the suite of collaboratively implemented, interrelated projects that together minimize the footprint of Wharf operations on its surrounding environment while enhancing its appeal as a visitor destination.

Partners: City of Santa Cruz + University of California Santa Cruz

In 2011, the GreenWharf started as a partnership between the City of Santa Cruz and the University of California Santa Cruz to foster the development and incorporation of innovative technology into the structure and operations at the Santa Cruz Wharf.  The GreenWharf partnership has gained momentum over the past three years and now involves a number of non-profit organizations, Wharf businesses, private sector entities, students, and interested members of the public.

Annual Resources Conserved + Partnership Metrics:

Water saved: 67,800 gallons

Solid waste diverted from landfill: 2,400,000 lbs

Energy saved: 34,000 kWh

Greenhouse gas emissions saved: 258 tons CO2e a year

Number of student internships to date: 39

Number of field trips and special events: ~6-10 per year

Grant Funding to Date: over $150,000 


  • A renewable energy testbed with solar and the first wind turbine to be permitted by the Coastal Commission off the coast of California. The testbed charges the Wharf Electric Maintenance Vehicle’s batteries and reduces liquid fuel costs.
  • A free EcoTour mobile phone app and live docent-led tours on weekends that highlight the Wharf’s environmental protection efforts, ongoing research and certified green businesses.
  • A complete street and pedestrian lighting retrofit to LED technology which saves electricity and maintenance costs.
  •  Installation of the first electric vehicle charging station on the Wharf.
  • Installation of cigarette butt and discarded fishing line receptacles for wildlife protection.
  • Green certification of seven Wharf businesses and Wharf Headquarters through the “Green Business Challenge.”
  •  Wharf Centennial paper shopping bag campaign produced in collaboration with Wharf businesses to eliminate the use of plastic bags on the Wharf.
  •  Academic research on marine wildlife, energy and trash handling.
  • Educational events, internships, field trips, and press conferences to highlight the success of the GreenWharf efforts and encourage public participation.

Future Projects in the Works:

new wind technology  tidal energy   waste to energy systems   increased biking and walking access  stormwater pollution reduction system   increased interpretive signage





The project took shape in 2008, when discussions between the City of Santa Cruz and the University led to the idea of making the wharf energy self-sufficient.  As a first step, Prof. John Vesecky and the City’s Environmental Coordinator Ross Clark mentored a student project to design and build a pilot sensor and power generation platform. This platform collected wind, solar, and hydro information which assessed how much energy could be generated on the wharf. The student project was a success and won a Dean’s Award in the School of Engineering.  To view the energy-generation potential, click here.


A follow-up project began in June 2010 under the sponsorship of the Center for Information Technology in the Service of Society (CITRIS) involving the Center for Sustainability and Power Systems (CenSEPS) in Engineering and the Environmental Studies Department.  Prof. Vesecky, Dr. Kip Laws and Steven Petersen in Engineering, along with Prof. Brent Haddad and Tiffany Wise-West in Environmental Studies, moved the project forward toward a deployment on the roof of the Wharf Headquarters in cooperation with Wharf Manager Jon Bombaci. The Center for Sustainable Energy and Power Systems (CenSeps) at UC Santa Cruz, under Prof. Mike Isaacson, is playing a major role. The sensors, pioneered in the student project, yielded valuable test data, and on the basis of this information, the first wind turbine and solar panels were installed in Fall 2011. The energy produced by the wind turbine and solar panel charges an electric vehicle used in wharf maintenance.


City of Santa Cruz_GreenWharf_Fact Sheet