Sustainability is a cornerstone of Shoals Marine Laboratory’s operations and values. Maintaining an island campus that is both research-oriented and eco-friendly involves a lot of collaboration. Every summer Shoals invites four engineering students to participate in a month-long Sustainable Engineering Internship. The internship was started in 2006 and is now sponsored by Unitil, a local electric and natural gas company. Over the course of the month, students work on multiple projects involving the performance and planning of the electrical, drinking water, wastewater management, and salt water systems.
During the summer of 2019, the interns focused on running the newly purchased reverse osmosis machine on solar power, which would help reduce the amount of diesel used on the island. Since the 2000s, Shoals has reduced diesel usage from over 10,000 to under 1,200 gallons. Any effort to reduce fuel consumption on the island is an important focus of sustainability and the sustainability internship. Another project over the summer was creating an online dashboard to monitor the systems all over the island, which will be coming online for the public in Spring 2020. The work done by the sustainability interns helps to provide vital data for understanding the operations of systems to make critical infrastructure decisions.
One of the newest facility improvements to the island this summer was the replacement of SML’s decades-old, walk-in refrigeration equipment. Past sustainability interns helped to compile and analyze energy use data of the old equipment to make recommendations on its replacement. By renovating the system, SML is aiming to improve energy consumption even more (refrigeration is one the largest energy loads on the island!). Interns in coming years will evaluate the energy consumption of the new refrigeration and compare it to the past system. We look forward to their work to further SML’s sustainability!