Southeast Alaska Discovery Center in Ketchikan, which provides information to more than a million visitors each year, is the site of a pilot biomass boiler system now coming to life. Two oil-fired boilers serving the 250,000-sq-ft center were replaced with a highly efficient system fueled by local wood. Manufactured by Hurst Boiler & Welding Company Inc., the hot-water boiler was custom-designed to fit within very limited indoor space.
Under the direction of E. Dane Ash, project manager for Tyonek-Alcan Pacific LLC, the biomass boiler system was developed with Hurst representative Gregory W. Smith of Global Energy Solutions Inc. to address environmental concerns, as well as issues related to building space, fuel costs, comfort, reliability, and simplicity of operation.
The new boiler is located on the lower level of the Discovery Center, which requires heating for a minimum of nine months a year. Local wood densified into fuel pucks is delivered to an elevated walking-floor storage bin in a vestibule area built to protect against excessive moisture. (The biomass-fired boiler can burn any wood product with up to 50-percent moisture content.) An auger moves pucks from the storage area to a metering bin and into the boiler. Freezing is not an issue because the walking floor easily breaks up any frozen contents.