Archive for June, 2011

Portland (Maine) Airport’s Geothermal Project – Providing the Cooling (and heating) Power of an Iceberg

Monday, June 27th, 2011

by Steve Barrett

Portland International Jetport in Portland Maine is in the latter phases of constructing a $75m airport terminal expansion.  As part of the project, the City of Portland received $2.5m in funding from the FAA’s Voluntary Airport Low Emission (VALE) Program for a geothermal heating and cooling system that will serve the new terminal building.  VALE provides dedicated funding for projects that reduce airport emissions.  The funded geothermal system in Portland will avoid the need for 50,000 gallons of oil (and the emissions associated with its combustion) that would be needed to heat the space each year.  The upfront investment has an economic payoff as well producing $200,000 a year in savings and $8m over the life of the system.  The airport is seeking LEED Silver Certification for the terminal as a green building.

Bob Miller, Phil DeVita, and I got a close-up look at the terminal and geothermal system last week when Roy Williams, Deputy Director at the Airport, facilitated a tour for us.  After welcoming us and affirming the success of the geothermal system and terminal project, which is expected to be complete in September, he turned us over to the care of Turner Construction, the construction manager for the Terminal Project. 

We donned hard hats, orange vests and protective eye ware (Bono-style) for our tour through the active construction zone.   As we made our way from the construction trailer to the new terminal building, we looked over at the geothermal wellfield which is now covered by a new employee parking lot.  The visuals of a geothermal system are akin to an iceberg where the bulk of the system and its “gravitas” lie below the surface.  The wellfield consists of 120 wells dug 500 feet deep to tap groundwater used to deliver heating and cooling as dictated by the weather.  Inside the terminal building, weaving our way through the work-in-progress, we found the tip of the geothermal iceberg residing in the mechanical room.  It consisted of a myriad of pipes: large arteries pumping water directly from and back to the wells, and smaller capillaries distributing conditioned water throughout the building.  Eight heat exchangers warm and cool the water from its base temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit before circulating it.  The footprint of the entire system occupies a room about the size of an elementary school classroom. 

With its large windows delivering lots of natural light and the eight enormous wooded beams and rich wood ceiling, even half finished, the terminal made a good impression.  Just wait until the finished product is unveiled this fall!  The terminal’s less flamboyant geothermal system gave us HMMHers some perspective on how airport geothermal has been effectively utilized for both the environment and energy efficiency.  This information will be valuable to us as we are presently working with Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (NH) on a VALE geothermal project conceived to be nearly an order of magnitude larger than the system in Portland.  Now that will be an iceberg!

Founded on an Idea

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

by Mary Ellen Eagan

“HMMH solves complex problems affecting our environment.”

This is our firm’s mission statement and guiding principle. As we celebrate our 30th year, I think it is helpful to recall that HMMH was founded in 1981, when the aviation industry’s most vexing environmental challenge was clearly noise.  At that time, more than five million people lived within DNL 65 dB contours throughout the US.  Today that number is about 250,000, and JPDO projects it to be just over 100,000 by 2025.

Noise-Impacted Population v. Enplanements (Source: FAA, 2011)

What are the most pressing environmental challenged facing airports today?  They are many, and include: air quality, energy, sustainable design, climate change adaptation planning, to name a few. Noise is still a sporadic issue, but limited mostly to situations where changes have occurred or are being contemplated, like the implementation of Performance Based Navigation procedures and other NextGen technology.  HMMH is now active in all these areas.

I’m often asked to explain why HMMH has expanded its services over the past few years, and I point to the need and desire to help our clients address these 21st century environmental challenges.  We have learned much from our noise experience, and have added technical expertise in other scientific disciplines.  We believe we have much to offer.

There is an article in last week’s Economist analyzing IBM at 100.  The author attributes IBM’s success over the last century to being built around an idea rather than any particular product or technology.  IBM’s strategy of “packing technology for use by businesses” has allowed it to make multiple wholesale technology shifts as the market and world changed.   The author compares IBM to product-based firms such as Dell and Cisco, which are struggling to move beyond their core technologies.

So if I had one wish as we come to the close of our fiscal year and look toward the future, it is that people could see HMMH beyond it’s reputation as “noise experts” and more as trusted advisors who are passionate about solving complex problems.