ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Duluth airport gets clean energy grant

The new passenger terminal under construction at the Duluth International Airport was already pretty green. The project -- which is being built with sustainable and earth-friendly approaches -- is headed for LEED certification, a sort of environm...

The new passenger terminal under construction at the Duluth International Airport was already pretty green.

The project -- which is being built with sustainable and earth-friendly approaches -- is headed for LEED certification, a sort of environmental stamp of approval in building practices and energy efficiency.

But the $70 million terminal project can go much deeper into sustainability now with a $3.8 million grant it just received from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Voluntary Airports Low Emissions Program grant -- the first ever awarded to an airport in Minnesota -- will allow geothermal heating and cooling systems to be installed for the new terminal building.

In addition, pre-conditioned air units to heat and cool airplanes parked at the airport gate will be installed. That will save airlines operating costs and significantly reduce harmful emissions to the environment.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Typically, when airplanes pull up to airport gates they run on auxiliary power units run by jet fuel to keep the heating, cooling and other systems going overnight, or they're plugged into ground-powered units that burn diesel fuel," said Brian Ryks, executive director of the Duluth Airport Authority.

Over the next 20 years, the systems' switch will save airlines serving Duluth nearly 1.8 million gallons of jet fuel, Ryks estimated.

The geothermal system -- which uses the earth's underground latent temperature to heat a building in the winter and cool it in the summer -- will require the drilling of 80 wells to a depth of 500 feet near the terminal.

Geothermal is expected to save the airport $30,000 in annual utility costs compared to traditional heating and cooling systems.

The airport authority had looked into geothermal systems before construction began, Ryks said. But it was too costly and would have taken too long to see a payback, he said.

Construction at the terminal site had already started when they learned of the grant program a year ago that would make geothermal feasible. So they began the lengthy application process.

On Thursday, airport officials announced they got a $3.8 million grant.

Although the shell of the new terminal is done, it's not too late to put in a geothermal system. But they have to move quickly, Ryks said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Knowing time would be limited if they got the grant, they had already bid the project out. So the contractors are ready to start work within 30 days, he said.

The grant will cover $3.8 million of the $5.2 million cost for the energy-saving new systems. The remaining $1.4 million will be covered by state bonding money already received and other local airport authority funds.

The new terminal is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.

Related Topics: ENVIRONMENTTRANSPORTATION
What To Read Next
Bankruptcy information gathered from cases filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Duluth.
Recently sold properties from St. Louis County.
While traffic has roughly doubled since 2020 — the heart of the pandemic, when there were 14.9 million passengers — it’s still not at pre-pandemic levels: In 2019, there were 39.6 million passengers.
The addition of 72 Poplar River Condos units nearly doubles the vacation rental company's North Shore portfolio.