Alaska’s remote capital city of Juneau is to unveil a district heating project which will utilize electricity generated from a new hydroelectric facility at Sweetheart Lake and seawater from the Gastineau channel, deploying seawater heat pumps and an extensive downtown Juneau distribution network.
“This announcement is incredibly transformational. We will reduce the heating costs of businesses, residents, and city, state, and federal governments, but we have the opportunity to transform how Juneau heats its buildings with a zero emission technology. A district heating system based on tried and proven seawater heat pump technology could truly transform our way of life, away from fossil fuels, to a safe, renewable, and local energy source. Heat pumps are to heating what LED lights are to lighting,” said Duff Mitchell, Managing Director of Juneau Hydropower told the Alaskan Journal of Commerce.
Juneau District Heating utilizes proven heat pump technology already working at the NOAA Ted Stevens Marine Research Facility and the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward.
Heat is extracted from seawater, boosted to 180°F then delivered via a network of insulated piping to participating buildings and residences.
“Ideally, the only differences building owners and maintenance staff will notice are lower fuel bills, reduced maintenance costs (since existing boilers could remain as redundant back up heating), and more stable energy prices. Building occupants would adjust their thermostats just like before and likely never know their heat source has changed,” says project manager Greg Smith.
While the crashing price of oil poses a threat to the state’s budget, Juneau District Heating will proceed, with Mitchell adding “We’re competitive at today’s fossil fuel prices. A major strength of our project is price stability; our costs won’t change depending on events in the Middle East or the rest of the world.”