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Biomass Boiler Installation Complete in Ketchikan Federal Building

Release Date: March 10, 2012

The installation of the first biomass boiler in a United States Federal Building is complete. Outdated oil-fired steam boilers in the Ketchikan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse were replaced with a technologically advanced biomass boiler, which uses waste generated by the timber industry, a renewable energy supply.

Undertaken by the GSA, the $4.7 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Energy Improvement Project fully replaced the building’s heat generation, distribution, and automated control systems, along with other energy upgrades, including installation of the new biomass boiler system. GSA replaced the building’s outdated, inefficient 1964 steam heating system with an energy efficient hydronic heating system that includes one biomass boiler and one high-efficiency oil-fired boiler that will serve as a back-up.

During the first year of operation, GSA will run both the high-efficiency oil and biomass boiler to test the efficiency and effectiveness of biomass to heat the federal office building, and use that information to improve the efficiency of all GSA managed facilities. By using both systems, GSA expects to reduce fuel oil consumption by at approximately 50 percent in the first year with potential for greater reductions after the first winter. The Ketchikan Federal Building historically burned up to 9,000 gallons of fuel oil each year.

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. The Tongass National Forest is installing a biomass boiler at the Southeast Discovery Center next to the Ketchikan Federal Building. Sealaska Corporation installed one of the region’s first commercial biomass heating systems at their Juneau headquarters in 2010.

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 increase 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 GSA biomass heating system was installed by Southwest Construction, a small, woman-owned business with operations in Anchorage.

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