DULUTH, Minn. — Duluth International Airport officials announced receipt of a $3.8 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Voluntary Airports Low Emissions (VALE) Program. The FAA VALE program allows airport sponsors at commercial service airports located in air quality non-attainment and maintenance areas to apply for grants used to finance projects to improve airport air quality. The funding will be used for the design and construction of a geothermal heating and cooling system in the new passenger terminal building along with the installation of pre-conditioned air units and 400HZ ground power at the new terminal’s four passenger loading bridges. Duluth is the first airport in Minnesota to receive an FAA VALE grant.

“We first learned about this program a year ago and felt we could not pass up an opportunity to further our efforts in making our new terminal building as green as possible,” said Brian Ryks, Duluth Airport Authority (DAA) executive director. “Not only are we reducing emissions to the environment, added benefits include lower operating costs for airlines in Duluth and a significant reduction in annual utility costs for the DAA.”

The geothermal system will include a well field of 80 wells drilled to a depth of 500 feet. Piping is arranged in the wells and used to support the pumping of heat transfer liquid through the wells to take advantage of the earth’s latent temperature. The liquid is returned to the buildings’ mechanical heat pumps and chillers to support heating and cooling the terminal. The geothermal system is estimated to save over $30,000 in terminal utility costs as compared to a traditional heating and cooling system.

The pre-conditioned air (PCA) units that will be installed on passenger loading bridges supply heated or cooled air to aircraft parked at the airport’s gates. Additionally, 400HZ ground power converter units will be installed on the loading bridges providing electricity to parked aircraft for internal lighting and to ensure continuous power for navigational instruments. When used simultaneously, PCA and converter units enable parked aircraft to forego the use of auxiliary power units (APUs) and ground power units (GPUs), substantially reducing both jet fuel and diesel fuel consumption. The installation of both the PCA units and ground power is estimated to result in the savings of 1,798,507 gallons of jet fuel over the course of the next 20 years, providing significant cost savings as well as a reduction in emissions.

Publication date: 10/10/2011