Catching the Wave of Alternative Energy - SMCC | Business

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Catching the Wave of Alternative Energy - SMCC

Southern Maine Community College in South Portland partnered with a team of energy professionals to design and install an innovative ocean-based geothermal – or “sea-o-thermal” HVAC system in the Lighthouse building. The energy efficient system either absorbs or rejects heat from nearby seawater to bring a closed-loop glycol-heating coil to temperature. The system is completely environmentally friendly – releasing no byproducts into the water and requiring no fossil fuels. This innovative system makes regulating the building’s temperature easy and is three times more efficient than conventional heating and cooling systems. 

“The ocean is an amazing energy source,” says SMCC’s Dean of Admission Scott Beatty. “Even in the winter it provides potential heat that can be extracted and used to make the Lighthouse building comfortable.” This project was designed to use only electricity and energy harnessed from Casco Bay, no other fuel required.  It’s 100% clean, producing no greenhouse gas emissions other than those created by electricity generation.

 “This is a zoned facility with true heat recovery technology,” says Chris Green owner of Mechanical Services, the company involved with design and responsible for installation. “Each room has its own thermostat allowing occupants to control the temperature in each zone.”

The unique ocean-based system is the only one like it in Maine and proving to be highly efficient. Previously, the college consumed about 2,000 gallons of oil a year to heat the essentially unoccupied Lighthouse building. Now, thanks to the new “sea-o-thermal” system, the building is used full time and doesn’t require any fossil fuel for heating – saving the school about $7,200 in heating costs each year. In addition the “sea-o-thermal” system is also being used to air condition the building during summer months – a comfort that was not part of the old HVAC system.




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