We all want to save the environment by using green, renewable sources of energy. But does that mean we have to stare at a 60-foot-tall downtown silo? One that will be refilled with 250 tons of wood scraps, delivered by truck, each and every night?
The uphill stretch of Western Avenue between Union and University Streets almost resembles a lumber mill as the wood chip silo is currently being installed. It will feed, by underground tunnel, a new biomass boiler across the avenue at Seattle Steam. That century-old, family-owned company is investing $25 million in the new system, according to CEO Stan Gent. "I think we'll be burning wood by October," he says. "It's going to produce somewhere between 50 to 60 percent of our power." The plant's carbon footprint will be reduced by the same number. No surprise that Congressman Jay Inslee "got us a nice earmark"--$500,000 to help reduce Seattle's greenhouse emissions.
At present, Seattle Steam boilers are fueled by gas and oil, which silently arrive via pipe. ("All the money goes to Canada," says Gent.) In the future, trucks will deliver wood from local providers including Cedar Grove Composting, Allied Waste, and CleanScapes. "It's about ten truckloads per night," says Gent. By arrangement with the neighbors, "The trucks start to deliver at 8 p.m. They're allowed to deliver until 6 a.m." It won't be like an open pit with garbage trucks tipping into it, he adds: "The [shed] door closes. That way we can control the environment, control the noise."
Above the silo stands the posh new Four Seasons hotel/condo (a Seattle Steam customer), whose residents and guests will not have their views impeded. After talks between the two parties about the silo's location, says Gent, "We squished it below." Indeed, the silo is sited as far south as possible on the small lot, away from the Four Seasons staircase at Union Street, close to the Harbor Steps apartments. Lucky renters on the northwest corner can now watch the cranes and contractors assembling the silo. And later--the nightly parade of trucks.
Calls to Harbor Steps, owned by a Chicago REIT, were not returned. (It's also not a Seattle Steam customer--coincidence?) But the complex is currently accepting rental applications. The 02 stack of its northwest tower features balconies with excellent silo views (electric heat included). It's almost romantic at sunset.
Oh, and if any Harbor Steps residents in the northwest tower are reading this, we'd love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.