Thanks to a new electric boiler on land, the oil-burning boiler on Princess Cruise Line's Sun class ships can shut down when they come to town, making for cleaner skies in Juneau.
"It's eliminated the smoke," said Princess superintendent Ken Gillespie, who helped oversee the boiler project. When the ships are in port, "We don't have any engines running."
Steam produced by the boiler is used primarily for heating and ventilation. It also heats the ships' thick fuel and helps power laundry machines and dishwashers.
The electric boiler went into operation about two weeks ago. It's the final piece of a changeover, which began last summer, to shore-based electrical power while Princess ships are at the privately owned Franklin Dock downtown.
The company originally intended to make the switch last year, said Kirby Day, director of shore operations for Princess. But the process was more complicated than anticipated.
"The electrical (boiler) is more automated - that took a long time to set up," Gillespie said.
Under the new system, electricity is funneled to the ship from Alaska Electric Light and Power's Franklin Dock substation. A portion of the power is used to produce steam, at a rate of about 15,000 pounds per hour.
From the boiler, steam travels underground to the ship through insulated pipes, Gillespie said. Factors such as pressure are monitored by a technician inside the boiler building.
"We can wind our oil-burning system right down and this supplies all the steam we need," Gillespie said.
After being used, steam is cycled back from the ship to the boiler building, where it is cooled and condensed, then drained.
Four of Princess' five ships can use the new installation, which is the first of its kind in the world, Gillespie said. The ships come to Juneau weekly.
Switching to shore-based power and steam cost about $6 million, of which $2.5 million is for alterations to the ships and $3.5 million for onshore facilities.
The city has contributed about $600,000 to the project over the last two years, Day said. The money was drawn from funds raised by the fee levied on cruise ship passengers.
Princess will spend about $480,000 on electricity in Juneau by the end of the year, Day estimated. AEL&P uses the new revenue to reduce its customers' bills.
"Every cent that they pay us for electricity is in turn given back to our customers," said David Stone, director of consumer affairs for AEL&P. "It's a win-win situation for all of us."
Genevieve Gagne-Hawes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.