Portland Press Herald

Maine Voices: Blue skies reign over
the Portland International Jetport

 

By Jake A. Plante
Special to the Press Herald

The jetport has built a national reputation for balancing airport development with effective environmental stewardship.

BRUNSWICK — When we book a flight, we usually think about cost and convenience, not air traffic control or the daily work of airport management, including environmental planning. While airports can be poor neighbors because of noise, air pollution and discharges of dirty stormwater, Maine is fortunate to have the Portland International Jetport, which has built a national reputation for balancing airport development with effective environmental stewardship.

Nearly 2 million passengers are expected to travel through the jetport this year, an increase of over 35 percent since 2004. In addition to being the gateway to Maine, the jetport is an increasingly attractive option for Boston and New Hampshire travelers. The economic outlook continues to look bright with Frontier Airlines’ recent announcement of nonstop service to Denver, Colorado, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and several cities in Florida.

Jetport Director Paul Bradbury, who has 27 years of facility experience, deserves much of the credit for leading the jetport’s expansion in a sustainable manner. His management has made the jetport one of the cleanest and most efficient airports in the country.

Most recently, Bradbury and his engineering department finished installing 1,300 solar panels on the rooftop canopy of the airport parking garage. The 475-kilowatt system, ostensibly Maine’s largest rooftop installation, will supply 568 megawatt hours of power per year, about 7 percent of the jetport’s overall requirements.

In 2012, the jetport earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification for the design of the new terminal. Green features include LED lighting and the use of geothermal energy to heat and cool the new terminal. The geothermal system utilizes a field of 120 wells, each 500 feet deep, located under the employee parking lot. Using 22 miles of piping, the system provides about 90 percent of the heating and cooling requirements of the new terminal, annually displacing 50,000 gallons of oil.

The jetport also stands out as the first airport in the country to make Federal Aviation Administration-certified de-icing fluid from recoverable spent fluids and as one of the only airports doing this 100 percent of the time. In the winter, departing aircraft taxi over to a de-icing pad where propylene glycol is sprayed onto the aircraft. What falls off is recaptured using grooved pavement, drains and storage tanks. From there, it is distilled on site for re-application. The jetport is also striving to recycle more of its solid waste streams from arriving aircraft, concessionaires, travelers and airport offices. The current level of recycling is 10 to 15 percent; the goal is 30 percent by 2020.

Another efficiency gain has come from the electrification of all 11 aircraft gates in order to supply the aircraft cabins with power, lights and temperature control between flights. This eliminates a major source of emissions from the use of aircraft auxiliary engines, which burn jet fuel inefficiently.

One of the secrets to the jetport’s success is its knowledge of FAA environmental programs. Bradbury, the jetport director, has searched out discretionary air quality grants from the FAA, above and beyond FAA entitlement funding for improvements to terminals, runways, taxiways and other airport facilities.

Of course, the jetport isn’t the only FAA beneficiary. The agency has issued over $200 million in air quality grants to airports around the country, investments that have leveraged millions of dollars more in local and private funding for clean airport technology. This activity began around 2005, when Congress and the FAA decided to use “carrots” (grants) as well as “sticks” (regulations) to reduce airport emissions. In the long run, everyone wins– cleaner airports foster good community relations, which help when it comes time to upgrade airport infrastructure.

In Paul Bradbury’s words, “Airports must reflect their communities and the jetport has embraced, with FAA support, the city of Portland’s goals for sustainability throughout its operations. It is wonderful to see these goals realized.”

By any measure of corporate responsibility, there’s a lot for Maine and Portland to take pride in at the jetport.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jake A. Plante of Brunswick is a former Federal Aviation Administration employee and recent author of “Uncle Sam and Mother Earth: Shaping the Nation’s Environmental Path.”

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