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Have You Heard?
Energy and cost savings could be yours

Downtown property owners and managers have the opportunity to cut energy costs, boost profits and strengthen Seattle's economy through a program spearheaded by Community Power Works, Seattle 2030 District, Emerald Cities Seattle, The Seattle Foundation, Energy Efficiency Finance Corporation, MacDonald Miller Facility Solutions—and Seattle Steam.

The coalition held a meeting in mid-September to update everyone on the program's progress and encourage more properties to get involved. The program kicked off last year using seed funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's BetterBuildings and will run through 2013.

The Washington Athletic Club has completed the three-phase program and is already seeing energy savings. Thirteen more buildings have participated in the program's first two phases, which identified a potential collective savings of $1.5 million per year on their utility costs and an annual carbon emission reduction of more than 8,500 metric tons. Seattle Steam encourages all customers to participate.

Previously administered by Community Power Works and now under the auspices of Seattle 2030 District, the program reflects the City of Seattle's commitment to being an energy-efficient city, which also has environmental and economic benefits.

Learn more on Seattle 2030 District's website or check out the project's video.

The program is turn-key for all participants, with MacDonald Miller conducting all three program phases, including upgrade installation in Phase III. Phase I is a qualitative analysis of the building's energy-saving potential. If savings appear possible, Phase II is initiated, providing a quantitative analysis of the building's past energy bills, an existing equipment audit and a detailed list of energy- and cost-saving opportunities, costs and paybacks.

Participating properties that want to move forward to Phase III can access grant funds and low-interest loans to pay for the upgrades. On-bill financing through Seattle Steam allows businesses to pay back the loans over time on their monthly utility bill. Typically, the entire cost of the improvements is covered by the energy savings, so there is no increase in a building owner's monthly utility bills. In most cases, the loan is paid off in 5 to 7 years, after which the building owner sees a substantial drop in its monthly energy bill.

"This is a low-risk opportunity for your organization to tap into an incredible resource," says Stan Gent, President and CEO of Seattle Steam. "Contact David Easton at our office, and he'll get you connected with the program. The many community organizations on board with the effort demonstrate how vital it is to the future of our community. It all feeds into economic competitiveness and sustainability. It doesn't get any more important than that."


Committed to Continuous Improvement. You've probably noticed that we often encourage our customers to save energy. We also apply that approach in our own plants and distribution system. The more efficient we are, the better for everyone.

This summer we added a water source bed cooling system to our biomass boiler's fluidized bed. While the technology may sound complex, its many benefits are not. It will increase wood combustion efficiency, allow us to burn more wood instead of natural gas, and improve the efficiency of the plant's steam generation.

The new water cooling system ensures that the sand within the biomass boiler doesn't exceed the proper 1800 F. Here's how the fluidized bed works: Nozzles from the fluidized bed blow the sand up onto the waste wood. The wood is then converted to energy. The sand continues to scour the burning wood chafing off the charred sections, allowing it to burn fully through.

The key is for the sand not to get too hot (if it does, it melts) or too cold, as then it doesn't burn the wood as efficiently. Standard practice is to cool the sand by pumping more air into the boiler, but that reduces efficiency. So we devised a method to extract the hot used sand, screen it, cool it and then put it back into the boiler. The cooler temperature of the injected sand provides just the right cooling medium to keep the boiler at a constant—and ideal—temperature, without adding air.

Here is how the system's benefits play out:

  1. Increases wood combustion efficiency. We don't have to blow as much air into the boiler to reduce the temperature.
  2. Allows us to burn more wood instead of natural gas. Since the bed is now cooler, we can put more wood into the bed to bring it up to the proper temperature, getting more steam out of it while remaining well within our permit levels.
  3. Improves the efficiency of the plant's steam generation. We're using the heat from sand removed from the boiler to preheat the water supply to all of our boilers, including those that use natural gas, which reduces the amount of energy needed to create steam.

But our continuous improvement efforts didn't stop there this summer. We also added a new waste-heat recovery system to make sure that all useful energy is extracted from waste water being discharged from the plant.

So the summer was anything but quiet for us. We are ready for winter and running at higher efficiencies than ever before!

Water for the Future

Ongoing water resources are vital to producing steam. That's why Seattle Steam continues to study and evaluate how it can most cost-effectively and reliably secure water resources in the future.

Seattle Steam currently purchases 100% of its water for steam production from Seattle Public Utilities. In fact, water costs currently account for 4% of the cost of steam. As you may have heard, however, Seattle Public Utilities has announced that it plans to increase the cost of water by 10% per year for the next several years.

To help minimize the effect of that increase on our customers, Seattle Steam has applied to the Washington State Department of Ecology to renew the company's existing water rights, which date back to 1923. That will enable us to drill a new well in 2013 to meet a large portion of our own water needs. Upon completion, the new well would give us more control of our water costs, which will ultimately benefit our customers.

Stack Removal, Construction Caught
on Camera

In August, Seattle Steam replaced one of the two stacks at our Western Avenue facility and recorded the work, from beginning to end. Crews removed a black stack installed in 1909 and replaced it as a proactive measure. Check out the time-lapse construction video and read more about the stack removal project.

Construction on the Olympic Stadium in Olympic Park began in 2008, with completion in 2011. It is connected to the Park's district energy system. Photo EG Focus.

London Olympic Park's Winning Energy System. When the 2012 Olympic Games were held in London this past summer, district energy was tapped to provide clean, reliable heating and cooling to the nearly 1-square-mile Olympic Park—site of the 80,000-seat stadium, the athlete's village and several other sporting venues. As reported in District Energy magazine (Second Quarter 2012), the Olympic Development Authority (ODA) chose district energy as part of its plan to build a sustainable, low-carbon site for the Games, a key element in its bid to host the event. A wood chip-burning biomass boiler at the main Kings Yard Energy Centre helped the Olympic Development Authority achieve its goals.

In the design of its energy strategy, the ODA aimed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50% compared with levels required to comply with current building regulations. The Kings Yard plant, which produces combined heating, cooling and power, has been central to meeting this target. Future plans call for adding one more biomass boiler as the system expands to serve more Olympic Park area development in the decades to come. A future visitor's center at the plant will also provide the public with information about the Kings Yard system and renewable energy.


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From U.S. Energy Information Administration—The Grand Coulee Dam on Washington's Columbia River is the largest hydroelectric power producer in the United States, with a total generating capacity of 6,809 MW.

In 2011, Washington was the leading producer of electricity from hydroelectric sources and produced 29% of the nation's net electricity generation.

Hydropower produces 73% of electricity in Washington State.

From Seattle Steam—The cost of electricity in downtown Seattle is expected to go up 12% for most customers in 2013.

From eRedux Washington —Transportation is the leading energy-consuming sector in Washington. Seattle Steam believes that electrifying vehicles and generating the electricity in a combined heat and power plant where the heat is recovered and used to heat buildings could help reduce carbon emissions from transportation.

From ChooseWashington.com—Washington has the fifth largest installed wind capacity in the United States. Seattle Steam believes that pairing combined heat and power plants, district energy and electric boilers can result in an ability to virtually store electricity, eliminating the challenges from electric storage using today's technology.

Seattle Steam Co., 1325 Fourth Avenue, Suite 1440, Seattle, WA 98101
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