Letters to the Editor, Week of May 18, 2022
May 18, 2022 at 5:55 a.m.
I am the editor at a small weekly paper in Idaho. I had heard in the past that Whatcom County was kind of a news desert, so when I was visiting your neck of the woods last week, I was happily surprised to pick up a print paper full of substantive local coverage, compelling writing and strong photography. Congratulations on the new venture and keep up the good work. It's pretty darn important.
I would like to thank Drs. Sheikh, Harrell and Kamada of WWU for their rebuttal to Abe Jacobson’s article about the preference for gas furnaces over heat pumps. We spent $14,000 (through a low-interest credit card) on a new heat pump and Barron Heating took away our old gas furnace; the kitchen stove is now radiant heat, and I no longer breathe gas fumes into my lungs while cooking. Since I have recovered from cancer, I’m quite happy not to go there again. Mostly, we have gone to this expense for the sake of climate change and our children’s future. We were very comfortable during last summer’s heatwave and in this cold winter. I could not have asked for more. We have also done the Bellingham Energy Project with insulation, and this 1903 house is now quite comfy year-round.
Cascadia Daily provided two great articles regarding the use of heat pumps in this Puget Sound region. Both Jacobson and Sheikh et al. have valid viewpoints, and I would like to add my experience with the installation and three years of use of a mini-split heat pump at a small home in Glacier.
In this region, there will be many winter nights when temperatures drop below 35 degrees Fahrenheit, and with our high humidity, this leads to freezing of the exterior heat exchanger, necessitating the use of a backup heat source. I had used the original electric baseboard heaters at night, and the heat pump will provide heat during daytime hours. Alternatives include using a wood stove, or kerosene heater, or just living with a colder temperature during nighttime. The point is that the heat pump by itself is not sufficient, and the initial investment of both the heat pump and the backup heating source must be considered.
The installation cost of the heat pump can range from very low (if you install it yourself) to rather high, depending on the capacity of the unit and the salesmanship of the contractor. I installed the heat pump myself, and I purchased the requisite tools and obtained the required (and free) EPA 608 type 1 certification needed to ensure that refrigerant is not released to the atmosphere.
The end result is a drop in the electric bill of about 50% during winter months when this combined use of a heat pump plus resistive heating at night is used. However, when one extrapolates this to a society-wide implementation, it implies there will be a surge in electric demand when the ambient air temperature drops below 35 degrees Fahrenheit, so there will not be any significant decrease in electric supply capacity to address this characteristic.
I am troubled by the City Council's recent decision to fully fund anaerobic digestion over the option of Fluidized Bed Combustion (FBC).
The FBC system directly addresses most of the current outstanding issues with the anaerobic digestors. The capital and operating costs are significantly less.
Studies by Brown-Caldwell show there is a potential cost difference of about $60 million between the two technologies.
Reviewing the various city-authorized reports, my expectation was that I'd be able to go into these studies and find a well-reasoned explanation/comparison of the two options. What I found is basically no information that would allow comparison of the technologies apples-to-apples.
The rationale for excluding FBC is not well-documented. What is documented is not verifiable.
In the “Post Point Biosolids report, Preferred Conceptual Alternative Selection, TM-1,” page 24, there is a simple statement that eliminates the incineration option: it “Does not meet the climate action plan goals by recovering nutrients in the biosolids and would not reduce the GHG emissions without the use of an energy recovery system.”
With regard to GHG reduction targets, the 2018 FBC Capital Cost study, intended to provide a basis of technology comparison, was intended to be used in the alternative selection. Amazingly, it does not include an estimate of the net GHG.
So, where did the evaluators get the GHG estimates for the FBC treatment?
Elimination based on no bio-nutrient recovery is another problem. There is conjecture now as to whether or not the treated sludge from the digesters can be placed on the land.
If it can’t, it will have to be trucked to a landfill just like FBC ash, except the volumes will be larger and require more trucks than disposal of ash.
There are many other issues that are associated with the process selection of anaerobic digestion for Post Point. The equipment count is troubling. Operability and maintenance are other problem areas. Anaerobic digesters can go sour for unexplained reasons.
Too many unresolved items with anaerobic digestion that the FBC easily handles.
The City should be carrying the FBC option along with Anaerobic Digestion into the next phase of engineering definition.
In today's complexity of living, we often ask ourselves and seek ways to be meaningful within community. Terms such as “essential,” “sustainable,” “nurturing” and “essential” engender a perspective, “Meet the Need; Don’t feed the Greed.”
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