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King County seeks private sector partner to harness thermal energy in wastewater

Summary

July 2012 - King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) that invites local developers and commercial property owners to submit ideas for privately-owned district energy systems that could extract and recover energy contained in WTD’s conveyance system.

Story

King County is looking for a local developer to harness the unused thermal energy in wastewater pipelines to bring power, heat and cooling to commercial buildings.

“We have a hidden supply of energy that flows right under our streets, energy that can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “We want to hear from the private sector about how we might capture this thermal energy to heat and cool and power our buildings.”

The district energy system proposal builds on the King County Energy Plan, which sets the ambitious but achievable goal of meeting half of county government’s energy needs from renewable sources, through creative partnerships with the private sector that include the capture of “waste energy” from the county’s own operations.

King County’s Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) that invites local developers and commercial property owners to submit ideas for privately-owned district energy systems that could extract and recover energy contained in WTD’s conveyance system.

The County will host an informational meeting for the public on Monday, July 30 from 8:30 to 10 a.m., at King Street Center, 201 S. Jackson Street, 5th Floor, in the Cloaca Maxima and Harappa conference rooms.

“As an advocate for energy districts, sustainable and renewable energy sources, and specifically, heat as energy from wastewater conveyance, I am excited about the possibilities that will emerge from combining the private sector’s innovation with the renewable energy potential of King County’s wastewater conveyance pipes,” said King County Councilmember Larry Phillips, who brought the idea of tapping conveyance pipes for energy to the Wastewater Treatment Division after learning about it during a walking tour of Interbay. “This is a win-win for the public.”

District energy systems produce energy from a local plant that can be piped underground to nearby buildings, replacing the need for boilers, furnaces, or air conditioners. Wastewater that picks up heat from people, home appliances, and industrial processes maintains an annual average temperature of about 65 degrees Fahrenheit, warm enough to provide an extractable source of energy.

King County’s goal through the RFI is to gauge interest within the private sector about investing in new technologies that would make heat energy and possibly other forms of energy contained in its wastewater system more widely available.

The County’s clean-water utility is already a national leader in renewable energy, creating resources such as electricity and natural gas from byproducts of the treatment processes that are used for heat and power at its regional facilities in Seattle and Renton. WTD has agreements to sell energy generated to Seattle City Light and Puget Sound Energy.

The first North American district-scale sewer heat recovery system of this kind was built in Vancouver BC in the False Creek neighborhood for the Olympic Village. A small handful of other sewer heat recovery projects are operating in Northern Europe and Japan.

Additionally, the City of Seattle recognizes district energy as a key strategy in helping achieve our climate protection and energy conservation goals. Seattle is currently perusing district energy opportunities in the First Hill neighborhood. 

The district energy systems outlined in the King County RFI would need to be privately owned and operated, and installed on private property with a connection to a WTD regional wastewater conveyance line. The district energy system could not impact King County’s operations or facilities, and the developer or property owner would have to assume responsibility for costs or risks associated with the project.

For additional information or to obtain a copy of the RFI, please visit the King County Procurement website at http://www.kingcounty.gov/operations/procurement.aspx or contact Amon Billups in King County’s Procurement and Contract Services Section at 206-263-9306 or amon.billups@kingcounty.gov.

Note to editors and reporters: Visit the WTD Newsroom, a portal to information for the news media about the Wastewater Treatment Division, King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks: http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/wtd/Newsroom.aspx

Related information

King County Wastewater Treatment