Portland, Maine’s new airport expansion is to be the first in the country to use a dead-simple but often overlooked technology to significantly reduce its heating and cooling bills. They’re calling it a geothermal system, but it’s not like the kind that produce power in Iceland; it’s more properly called a “ground-source heat pump.”
With a $2.5 million VALE grant, the innovative, geothermal heating and cooling system that will save the 137,000 square foot terminal more than 50,000 gallons of oil every year. That translates to savings of more than $200,000 per year and more than $8 million over the new system’s life.
The system will deliver comfortable temperatures to passengers and employees from 120 wells drilled 500 feet below the new employee parking lot. It works in winter and summer because, at that depth beneath the earth’s surface, the water temperature is constant throughout the year.
Portland is the nation’s first large terminal with such a system, and it’s attracting a lot of attention from airport operators across the nation. “They are really blazing the trail,” said Christa Fornarotto, the FAA’s Associate Administrator for airports.
It’s also important to recognize that the new geothermal system will cut down on the emissions associated with burning heating oil. The VALE program was created in 2005 to improve air quality and reduce emissions at commercial service airports. Through the program, the FAA has supported 42 green projects in 22 airports across the country. And that’s an achievement worth noting during Air Quality Awareness Week. When President Obama challenged us to out-innovate and out-build our competitors, the Jetport’s geothermal heating system is exactly the kind of project he had in mind. By embracing new, cleaner energy technologies, America can’t help but win the future.