Tag Archives: boiler

Seattle steam turns to wood

The Seattle Steam Company, which operates two plants that produce steam for heating downtown Seattle office buildings, hotels and hospitals, has plans to replace a natural gas-fired boiler with one that uses recycled and waste wood as its fuel. For Seattle Steam, the move to biomass represents an initial step in the switch to renewable energy sources. The switch, according to the company will reduce Seattle Steam’s carbon emissions by about 55,000 tons annually. The plans for the conversion to wood fuel were already on the table in 2006, as it is now it looks like it will be this autumn when the boiler is ready for use.

Bron: Wikipedia
Bron: Wikipedia

This 115 year old privately owned company now provides steam generated from burning natural gases, diesel and oil. This supplies heat through 18 miles of steam pipeline to 200 of downtown Seattle’s largest buildings. It also uses steam for generating hot water and humidity control. Because of rising gas prices as well as Seattle Steam being the biggest single natural gas consumer in the state, the company decided to make the switch to give it a more competitive edge. Subsequently, in its effort to reduce carbon emissions, it plans to fire up a new boiler which will allow it to derive more than half of its source fuel from wood waste. The wood coming from crates, packaging material and tree trimmings will be reduced to chips 3 inches or smaller.

Some have said the choice of wood is not a particularly sensible one. It might be a lot cheaper than natural gas, but burning wood will actually release more carbon emissions than the burning of natural gas. Still, advocates of the switch say this is not entirely true. A tree absorbs as much carbon (or carbon dioxide) in its lifetime as it releases when burnt. Wood burning does not release more carbon dioxide than during it’s biodegradation (i.e. rotting). Wood burning can therefore be called “carbon neutral”. Of course, harvesting and transport operations can produce significant amounts of greenhouse gas pollution, but considering that Seattle Steam plans to use ‘urban’ wood it seems to work out in it’s favour.

Seattle Steam’s use of biomass will reduce its use of natural gas by 60% and reduce it’s carbon footprint – and subsequently the footprints of its customers – by 50% the company says. This is an enormous step in the early days of carbon recognition. Stan Gent, president of Seattle Steam explains; ‘It will move us to beyond where the State’s goal is for 2050 and we will achieve that in 2009’. The company won’t stop here in its efforts to continue the search for more alternative fuel stocks. The use of glycerol, instead of the remaining natural gas, might be a next step. Although research is still in somewhat experimental stage at this point in time, Stan Gent has high hopes for the future: ’The process of burning glycerol might be commercially available within five years, if that’s the case we have every expectation that our carbon footprint will approach zero by 2020.’

Energy efficiency can also lead to lower tax bills

Dollar huisjeThe making of energy efficient improvements or installing alternative energy equipment is now made more attractive as U.S. home-owners (and businesses) can be eligible for bigger tax credits. By replacing old doors and windows, installing insulation, re-modeling and building with an eye toward energy efficiency, you don’t only save money over the long run but it may also result in savings in tax. The same goes with venturing into renewable energy sources, like solar energy, micro-turbines and purchasing a hybrid automobile. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 extends, expands, and simplifies federal income tax credits for homeowners who make energy efficient home improvements. The law extends consumer tax benefits through 2010; triples the total available tax credit from $500 to $1,500, and increases the tax credit to 30% of the cost of each qualified energy efficiency improvement.


If you were to buy or lease a new hybrid gas-electric or diesel automobile (truck, car or SUV) the tax credit amount could range from $250 to $3,400 depending on the fuel economy and the weight. Some heavy hybrid vehicles, for commercial purposes, are also eligible for tax credits. The tax credit is for vehicles ‘placed in service’ after December 31, 2006 and purchased on or before December 31, 2010. The vehicle tax credit is phased out for each manufacturer once that company has sold 60,000 eligible vehicles. At that point, the tax credit for that company’s vehicles will be gradually reduced over the course of another year. More information, including the list of eligible vehicles, can be found at:

Home energy- efficiency improvements
Consumers who purchase and install specific products in existing homes can receive a tax credit for 30% of the cost, up to $1,500, for improvements placed in service starting January 1st, 2009, through to December 31st, 2010. Think of exterior windows, insulation, exterior doors or roofs, central air conditioning, heat pumps, furnaces, boilers, water heaters and bio gas stoves. The improvements must be expected to last at least five years and must be installed in or on the tax payer’s principal residence in the United States. Manufacturers can certify (in packaging or on the company’s web site) which of their products qualify for the tax credit. Retailers, contractors, and manufacturers should be able to help you determine what levels of insulation and what other products qualify.

Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar Energy, Wind Energy and Fuel Cells
Consumers who install solar energy systems (including solar water heating and solar electric systems), small wind systems, geothermal heat pumps, and residential fuel cell and micro turbine systems can receive a 30% tax credit for systems placed in service before December 31st, 2016.  The cap on geothermal heat pump and solar heaters through 2016 has been removed so that there is no longer a maximum.

For the eligible systems and further information on renewable tax credits, visit: