Turning Waste into Energy

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Nucor projectSeattle City Light, the folks who send you your electricity bill, offers numerous incentives for residents and businesses to become more energy efficient. Did you know City Light will give you a $50 rebate if you buy an energy-efficient refrigerator? In Councilmember Mike O’Brien’s Energy and Environment Committee today, we voted to move forward a unique project that replicates this conservation model on a much larger scale.

Nucor Steel sits on the southwest corner of Harbor Island and is City Light’s largest electricity customer. In 2009, the company proposed investing $3.5 million into a cost-effective system that would turn the waste heat generated at its plant back into electricity, recovering enough to power 2% of its electricity needs. (If this doesn’t sound like a lot, I’ll point out that 2% of Nucor’s electricity usage is equivalent to that of roughly 590 residential households!) Similar to household appliance rebates, City Light would provide an energy efficiency incentive payment in return, in this case spread out over the first three years to mitigate risk.

Unfortunately, a lack of clarity in State law delayed the project for a time, but a helpful fix from the State Legislature last year has allowed the City and Nucor now to move forward together.

Many thanks to Nucor, City Light and Olympia for finding creative solutions that stretch our imagination about conservation and the opportunities for renewable energy that exist all around us.