Solar Wall Controls, Portland Food Co-op, and Gelato Fiasco

In this edition of the Spark newsletter, we share some news about solar walls, grocery stores, and gelato.

Solar walls are fun projects: who doesn’t love the idea of getting free heat from the sun? Our very first project for our very first client, Wicked Joe, included a solar wall to harness free energy shining on their perfectly south-facing wall in Topsham.

The Spark solar wall control system, installed in Biddeford.

This year, Spark has partnered with Innovative Automation Solutions to improve solar wall controls. Conceptually, solar walls are very simple: collect solar heat over a large surface on the south side of building and blow warm air inside. The tricky bits are knowing when to turn the fan on and off, and how fast to run it: too fast and the system cycles on and off excessively; too slow and you lose solar heat. After the first heating season, we decided to upgrade the Wicked Joe system controls to extend run times and reduce fan noise. Partnering with IAS gave us access to the process control engineering talent necessary to develop a custom solar wall controller.

We recently completed our second solar wall controls project, this time in Biddeford. The Spark solution for solar walls is to install temperature sensors in key places, use fans with motors that can run efficiently at variable speeds, and integrate sophisticated but affordable custom controls from Innovative Automation Solutions. The result is a solar wall that knows when and how much solar heat is available over the day, and runs at the right speed to bring that heat into a building.


In other news, we were pleased to learn that the Portland Food Co-op, another one of our first clients, has energy data on its first year of operation. We designed and installed LED lighting and heat recovery hot water systems, among other efficiency applications. The verdict? They are using less than half the energy per square foot of a typical grocery store. Success!

We’re hoping to achieve even better results for one of our most recent clients, Gelato Fiasco in Brunswick. When they were designing their expanded gelato factory, we suggested using waste heat from their gelato-making process to provide hot water, space heating, and snow melting. They agreed, and we’re hard at work turning this concept into reality. By eliminating the need for conventional HVAC and water heating equipment, we’re helping them save on both capital costs and annual operating costs. Every dollar in avoided energy costs boosts their bottom line and reduces their exposure to rising energy prices. We’ll let you know next year how it all turns out.

Want to save more energy and make more money? Give us a call today at (207) 200-4685 or drop me an email at to put Spark Applied Efficiency to work for you!

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