GSA's First Biomass Boiler Headed to Alaska

U.S. General Services Administration Regional Administrator George Northcroft, Southeast Alaska Power Agency CEO Dave Carlson, and other Federal and regional officials gathered on Friday, August 5th at the Ketchikan Federal Building to discuss the benefits of biomass heating systems in southeast Alaska, and tour the $4.7 million GSA biomass boiler project at the Ketchikan Federal Building.

GSA is replacing the building’s outdated, inefficient 1964 steam heating system with an energy efficient hydronic heating system that includes a biomass boiler demonstration project. GSA manages 9,600 leased or owned Federal properties across the United States, and the Ketchikan Federal Building will be the first to pilot biomass heating technology.

"We had the opportunity to upgrade the heating system through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act," said GSA Regional Administrator George Northcroft. "Because this type of investment doesn’t come around very often, we needed to make improvements that would stand the test of time. We needed to deploy forward-looking technologies that would be relevant and sustainable for decades to come. Piloting a biomass heating system will help GSA achieve our goal of being a green proving ground for sustainable technologies and products."

The project, slated for completion in October 2011, features installation of a hot-water heating system powered by a biomass boiler and an energy efficient oil boiler that will serve as a back- up. During the first year of the project, GSA will operate both the oil and biomass boiler to test the efficiency and effectiveness of biomass to heat the Federal office building, and share that information across the agency’s portfolio of 9,600 owned or leased Federal office buildings. The Ketchikan Federal Building typically burns up to 9,000 gallons of oil each winter, and the new system will reduce that by at least 50% in the first year with potential for greater reductions after the first winter. GSA is also required to install back-up mechanical systems in Federal facilities in case of an emergency.

"Biomass is a proven renewable energy source that can readily be used for heating, and complements hydropower beautifully," said Southeast Alaska Power Agency CEO Dave Carlson. ""Biomass systems have the potential to decrease the demand for hydro power, which is scarce in the winter, and decrease our use of foreign oil."

GSA joins a growing list of government and commercial organizations in southeast Alaska turning to biomass as a sustainable alternative to oil-fueled heating systems. Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole will share an update on his agency’s move to install a biomass boiler at the Southeast Discovery Center next to the Ketchikan Federal Building, with completion expected in Fall 2011. The U.S. Coast Guard is examining the use of biomass systems in facilities in Ketchikan and Juneau, and Sealaska Corporation installed one of the region’s first commercial biomass heating systems at their Juneau headquarters in 2010.

U.S. Senator Mark Begich has been a leading supporter of the biomass industry in southeast

Alaska: "Ketchikan and Southeast Alaska are becoming a leader in the use of biomass. Supporting this work is more than just promoting renewable energy. The best way to keep an economy healthy is for the private sector to drive investment and job creation. I hope biomass projects like this help increase the local demand for wood pellets and lead private businesses to begin producing pellets in Southeast Alaska."

Biomass is one tactic Federal agencies are turning to as part of an effort to make the Federal government more sustainable. An Executive Order signed by President Obama in October 2009 requires all agencies to set and achieve goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing use of renewable energy. Biomass is considered a more sustainable heating option than oil because it is manufactured from a renewable resource, efficiently produced from waste generated by the timber industry, and could be produced locally in southeast Alaska, saving the time and carbon emissions produced by barging oil to southeast Alaska.

The $4.7 million contract for the GSA biomass heating system was awarded to Southwest Construction, a small, woman-owned business with operations in Anchorage.

Other panelists at the event included Bob Weinstein from the Office of U.S. Senator Mark Begich, Forrest Cole of the U.S. Forest Service, Rick Harris of Sealaska Corporation, and Captain Adam Shaw of the United States Coast Guard.

Last Reviewed 2015-04-23