Juneau District Heating- An Introduction
District Heating is a concept where many buildings are heated with hot water piped to them from a central source. It is advantageous because it is easier to take care of than having individual heat generation systems at each location. It is also less expensive and less polluting because it can replace individual boilers that burn fossil fuels like diesel. To make the centralized hot water, you need a heat source that creates it from burning something (i.e coal, oil, biomass, or natural gas), or capturing it from some other process. In the case of Juneau District Heating, we will be getting our heat from seawater without the need to burn anything. It is a truly revolutionary process.
The idea of District Heating for Juneau is actually not a new one. The concept for a downtown system has been talked about and studied in Juneau for a couple of decades. Believe it or not, Juneau had a centralized district heating system at the Douglas Treadwell mine over a century ago and pipes supplied heat to the buildings from a central location. Many buildings at Front and Franklin also had a centralized coal boiler that piped heat and hot water to several close by buildings.
Today, the City and Borough of Juneau Comprehensive Plan, Climate Action Plan and Draft Energy Plan all remark on the fact that Juneau is an ideal community for district heating. But until now, the overwhelming cost of building the infrastructure with a traditional district heating feedstock i.e. oil, biomass, or natural gas made district heating an economically unfeasible concept. The unique innovations of the Seawater Heat Pump technology, which will be used for the Juneau District Heating system is so efficient that it greatly offsets the other necessary infrastructure and piping costs making the overall project not only economically viable, but economically attractive for capital investment and customer energy savings. The Juneau District Heating system sets itself apart from past studies and discussions since the seawater heat pump system negates the need to burn any fossil fuels and is completely driven by locally produced renewable and sustainable energy sources. The Sweetheart Lake Hydroelectric Facility will power the Juneau District Heating heat pumps and infrastructure. This powerful combination of totally renewable energy that will be used to convert totally renewable heat from the sea into usable heat energy for Juneau, will be the first of its kind in the US and a key component to Juneau’s sustainable future.