South Lake Union is unquestionably hot in the figurative sense. But it may start to heat up literally if one local company—not to mention the city—gets its way.

Seattle Steam is a privately owned utility that deals in district energy, or localized energy systems that primarily use steam to heat nearby buildings. It’s an old technology—the company, which serves about 200 customers downtown, is 120 years old—yet Amazon has been looking closely at the concept for its new three-building campus in SLU. 

Such a system would normally be cost-prohibitive to install for just any new development. But thanks to the massive Westin data center right across the street from the future Amazon site—a virtual boiler, what with all of the networking equipment it houses—the utility already has a ready source of heat to siphon off of.

Converting that wasted energy into something usable would be a big win for Seattle Steam and an even bigger one for the city itself, says climate protection advisor, Christie Baumel. “It provides an opportunity, as we think about our carbon goals,” she says. “We also like the fact that the heat sources are local.”

 

Published: September 2013