Catching the Wave of Alternative Energy

Ocean-based “Sea-o-thermal” HVAC System Used at SMCC

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Portland, ME (April 4, 2012) — 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.

The individual room’s environment is controlled by a state-of-the-art system which also controls the flow of sea water used by the system. A touch screen located in the building lobby allows the building occupants and visitors to view the system’s operation. The control system was designed and installed by Maine Controls

Mechanical Services, a statewide HVAC contractor, helped design the system and was responsible for its installation.