A clean energy diet is catching on the Tongass National Forest. Solar panels power the Anan Bear Observatory and the Chickamin and Steelhead Barges, the Observatory uses a clean energy fuel-cell backup generator, and the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center has a new biomass boiler.
These projects are helping the Tongass meet goals under Executive Order (EO) 13423, Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management. EO 13423 requires the agency to reduce its energy use by three percent per year for a cumulative 30 percent reduction by 2015 and increase renewable energy use by five percent per year through FY 2012 (7.5 percent per year in FY 2013 and beyond). Meeting federal requirements is just one of the benefits of these renewable energy projects, which also save money and reduce the potential for oil spills, the cost of compliance, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.
|Fuel Cell at Anan Bear Observatory|
Anan Bear Observatory. The Anan Bear Observatory has opted for a power system that does not release greenhouse gases during power generation. A solar array provides electrical power and is backed up by a methanol fuel cell generator. Unlike a diesel generator, the methanol fuel cell depends on a chemical reaction&mdash not combustion&mdashto generate power, so no carbon dioxide or toxic pollutants are released during operation. (The methanol is manufactured from natural gas, so it is not entirely free of petroleum inputs but it is less polluting than using diesel.) So far the Observatory has not had to use the generator because the solar panels have met all of the building&rsquos electricity requirements. The methanol fuel, which is considered a hazardous substance, is stored in sealed containers until ready to use, thus eliminating the need to store open containers and reducing regulatory requirements.
|Solar Panels Power the Steelhead Barge.|
Barges. In 2011, two solar arrays were installed on the Chickamin and Steelhead Barges, which are mobile floating bunkhouses. The solar panels eliminate about 4,000 gallons of fuel a year for a total of $60,000 in savings. When using solar, it is important to first reduce energy use in order to minimize the number of expensive solar panels required. Conservation projects at the barges provided an opportunity for the Tongass to educate visitors about energy reduction measures, including turning off lights when they are not in use and limiting the use of electronics.
|The Biomass Boiler that powers the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center.|
Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center is also reducing its energy use with a new biomass boiler. A half ton of wood pellets per day provides the fuel to heat to the Discovery Center instead of petroleum-based fuel. The biomass boiler has the added benefit of supporting the local economy as wood pellets made from kiln-dried yellow and red cedar planer shavings are purchased from a local saw mill. The planer shavings are a byproduct of the mill&rsquos operation and, through conversion to wood pellets, have become a value added product for the mill. A pound of wood pellets produces approximately 8,200 BTUs.
The biomass boiler has eliminated the use of approximately 12,000 gallons of expensive fuel oil a year. Hoonah, Craig, Thorne Bay, Sitka, and Wrangell are now all looking at using biomass boilers, which would result in a potential total savings of 60,000 gallons of fuel oil a year.
A combination of energy conservation and renewable energy systems could power all remote sites in the Tongass and virtually eliminate the need for fuel oil. Already, the Tongass has plans to replace other diesel-powered generators with fuel cells, especially in remote locations where transporting fuel is difficult and expensive. An added benefit of the elimination of stored diesel fuel is the reduction of regulatory requirements. Replicating these successful pilot projects will keep the Tongass on track to meet federal goals while achieving additional cost savings and environmental benefits.
By Michele Parker, Environmental Engineer, Tongass National Forest