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Seattle Steam Co. Fall 2010



In a recently issued report, district energy moved center stage in the City of Seattle's quest to become carbon neutral by 2050. Prepared by Compass Resource Management Ltd., the City-commissioned report states that district energy systems can be an effective way to reduce greenhouse gases and outlines policy options to support district heating modernization and expansion in Seattle.

The report cites four areas that hold the greatest potential for system development — First Hill/Yesler Terrace, Capitol Hill, South Lake Union and the University of Washington — which were identified in a study conducted by Affiliated Engineers Inc. of Seattle and COWI Group of Denmark. Seattle Steam could serve as the backbone for portions of a larger district energy system loop.

Titled "A District Energy Strategy for the City of Seattle: Background and Directions," the report recommends four major steps be taken to support the City's overarching objectives and vision for deep carbon reductions, local energy security and a vibrant economy:

  1. Create an expanded and formalized district energy interdepartmental team.
  2. Establish a strategic district energy partnership for First Hill.
  3. Adopt policy reforms to remove barriers and enhance support for district energy.
  4. Conduct further planning studies in high-priority neighborhoods.

The City's Office of Sustainability and the Environment has already established a District Energy Interdepartmental Team to evaluate district energy's potential and necessary policy reform. The report recommends that the team expand, engage an external advisory committee and oversee the other three recommendations in the report.

The team's top priority will be First Hill, which was identified as the most promising area for district energy expansion. It has high energy density, Seattle Steam already serves part of the area, and new development is anticipated. In fact, housing supply could grow by nearly 165 percent.

To learn more about the strategic district energy partnership for First Hill, policy reforms that could remove barriers and enhance support for district energy, and Seattle Steam's potential role in these exciting district energy developments, read the full report available on Seattle Steam's Web site.



University of Washington Celebrates 150th Birthday. Founded in 1861, the University of Washington is one of the oldest state-supported institutions of higher education on the West Coast — and one of the pre-eminent research universities in the world. We congratulate the university on its 150th anniversary year, which kicked off Sept. 13 with a media event at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, site of the original UW campus. Seattle Steam serves all but two of the buildings constructed on the land that was once part of the original university: the Fairmont, Skinner, Cobb and IBM buildings as well as Puget Sound Plaza.

In 1861, the campus was located in the heart of Seattle (the large white structure in the top left of adjacent photo) between Union Street to the north and Seneca Street to the south. Leaders soon realized that the university should relocate further north where it could grow without restriction. Although the university moved to its current location, it retains ownership of the original six-acre parcel in downtown Seattle, called the Metropolitan Tract.

A variety of buildings have been added to the Metropolitan Tract over the years: the Cobb Building in 1910, the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in 1926, the Skinner Building (home of the 5th Avenue Theatre) in 1927, and others. In 1954, the University of Washington hired the Metropolitan Building Company (now Unico) to manage and develop the rest of the tract.

More information about the University of Washington's 150th anniversary is available here.


District Heating Use Growing in Land of Edelweiss. District heating use has steadily expanded in Austria over the past three decades. The Austrian Gas and Heat Association reports that in 1980 only 83,000 homes used district heating; in 2010, 758,100 were reported as district heating customers. That equates to 20 percent of the country's domestic households, up 6.4 percent from 2009. Last year 72 percent of the heat came from combined heat and power plants, with 17 percent from waste-to-energy plants.

According to the association, district heating use in Austria is reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 3.1 million tons per year compared to conventional heating methods. As shown in the adjacent photo, the Spittelau district heating plant in Vienna, Austria, certainly stands out in a crowd. Painter and artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser redesigned the plant's exterior with unexpected combinations of colors and shapes in 1989. It is now a landmark and burns up to 250,000 tons of municipal solid waste per year.

Charlie Munson


In each e-newsletter, Seattle Steam's Charlie Munson, who succeeds Woody Woodard as manager of distribution and customer service, will answer a timely operating question to help you continue to improve building operations.

What should a Seattle Steam customer do to get ready for the heating season?
Come October, the average low in Seattle slides to 45 degrees — so it's clearly time to prepare your building for the winter ahead. Here is a brief checklist to help your building get ready for cooler days that are just around the corner.
  • Contact us to turn on the main steam valve since this task needs to be performed by Seattle Steam. Additionally, Seattle Steam needs to be involved with any operation of the service condensate trap. It should not be closed for any reason, as its operation is critical to the safety of the steam system.
  • Inspect the steam pressure-reduction station. Downstream pressure should be steady. Look for a smooth valve response to load changes.
  • Ensure that your steam traps are working properly inside your building, check for and repair leaks. (Statistics indicate that 15 percent to 30 percent of a facility's steam traps are not working at any given time, causing significant energy loss. We strongly recommend an annual trap survey and maintenance/repair program.)

Feel free to call for assistance or ask us any questions. We want you to receive the best possible steam service. I may be reached at (206) 510-4749 or cmunson@seattlesteam.com.

Steam Plant

Biomass District Heating Leads to LEED Points. When applying for LEED certification, buildings need all the points they can get, but scoring points for renewable energy can be challenging. This column from the third quarter 2011 issue of District Energy magazine states that "District energy is often the best and sometimes the only option for obtaining credit for renewables in the LEED rating system." Check it out!


Seattle 2030 District Formally Launched. Sept. 8 marked the official debut of the Seattle 2030 District. Seattle Steam is a founding member. We encourage you to take a look at the group's Web site and view its new video.


American Public Media Profiles Steam Heat. Here is how Kai Ryssdal introduced a segment on district heating on National Public Radio's Marketplace: "It's entirely possible, though, that we're looking in the wrong direction, that there's a clean energy source with huge potential that isn't pie in the sky; and best of all, it's already here — right under city streets." Read the transcript or listen here.


The Wall Street Journal Names District Heating as Way to Take Green to New Level. This Wall Street Journal article by Michael Totty conjectures that cities could be part of the environmental solution instead of part of the problem. District heating is first on the list of possibilities.


Benchmarking Program Officially Under Way. The first milestone for the City's mandatory energy benchmarking program for buildings was Oct. 3, when nonresidential buildings 50,000 sq ft or larger had to comply with program requirements. Under the phased-in program (outlined in Seattle Municipal Code 22.920), qualifying buildings larger than 10,000 sq ft must be measured for energy performance using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's online ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager. Nonresidential and multifamily residential buildings 10,000 sq ft or larger must comply by April 2012. Seattle Steam Co. has set up a program to help steam customers of all sizes comply. After reading details online customers can access their Seattle Steam UtilityStudio account to complete forms for both Seattle Steam and ENERGY STAR to get started!

Energy Star


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