- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A waterfront property in downtown Juneau could change the way the city is heated.

Juneau Hydropower Inc. has entered an agreement with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority to buy a 2-acre lot of land in downtown Juneau. The $1.3 million deal isn’t finalized, but the Mental Health Trust’s board has approved the sale, The Juneau Empire reported (https://bit.ly/2hdK0vg).

If the purchase goes through, Juneau Hydropower CEO Keith Comstock plans to build North America’s first seawater heat pump district heating facility.

The plant would work by drawing cold seawater from the Gastineau Channel, then running that water through a heat pump that essentially extracts heat from the water and then distributes that heat to buildings in downtown Juneau.

The Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward uses a similar system to heat its building but the Juneau facility hopes to power all of downtown.

“This is going to change the heating economics of downtown,” said Duff Mitchell, managing director of Juneau Hydropower and Juneau District Heating. “We’re working on the renaissance of Juneau.”

Volatility in the price of other fuel sources, such as oil, can create dips and spikes in hearing costs. Because seawater will be the primary fuel source for the plant, Comstock and Mitchell said their plant will be able to provide consistently priced heat.

“We’re basically providing energy security for Juneau forever,” Comstock said.

Comstock said he hopes to be able to heat 80 to 85 percent of the homes and businesses in Juneau’s downtown core by the end of 2019.


Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, https://www.juneauempire.com

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