Take neighborhoods off heating oil

Posted: Tuesday, January 26, 2010

According to the city's Commission on Sustainability report, approximately 31 percent of Juneau's greenhouse gas emissions are from buildings. If the city is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to slowing the rate of global warming, we must start thinking out of the box and brainstorming and implementing new ideas now.

The city should build a ground source heat pump well field on any residential street that is planned for reconstruction. Twelth Street and Irwin Street downtown and Wood Duck Avenue and Poplar Avenue in the Mendenhall Valley are prime candidates.

The new swimming pool and the airport will use this clean technology. Gastineau Elementary School is awaiting funding for a ground source heat pump as well. This is a way to start transforming the residential sector on a large scale.

For example, the 40-plus homes on 12th and Irwin streets could use this carbon-free heating source later this year. In the street, there would be one to five vertical wells per home depending on size of the home and depth of the well. The city would own the wells just as it owns the water and sewer infrastructure. Homeowners could immediately tap into the well at their property line and retrofit their homes with heat pumps.

Funding for the well infrastructure could come from a combination of the Alaska Energy Authority, other grants and a Local Improvement District. Homeowners concerned with the rising cost of heating oil would benefit from this clean renewable energy source, and would help offset retrofit costs with lower heating bills. Ground source heat pumps are two- to four-times as efficient as electrical baseboards.

Encourage the city to start taking bold steps to reduce greenhouse gases, improve Juneau's air quality, and start transforming neighborhoods off oil.

Mike Hekkers


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