EETG: Commercial Scale Wood Pellet Fired Boiler

Project Outline

This project converted Sealaska’s corporate headquarters building from a diesel fired boiler to a wood pellet fired boiler. The overall goal of this project is the continued demonstration that wood heat can be cost effective and feasible for larger commercial, industrial, and municipal buildings, and has the potential to affect demand for Southeast Alaska second growth wood fiber.

The installed boiler uses wood pellets as its heat source. Wood pellet fired heat systems do not have problems with combustion like other wood fired systems, as pellets are a dependable heat source that conform to industry standards of moisture content and size unlike other woody biomass fuels. This project represented the first large commercial scale project biomass project within Alaska so use wood pellets as a fuel source. Because this is a demonstration project and significant feasibility there are limited local markets and supply chains. Besides reducing fuel costs, the successful demonstration of a commercial scale application could greatly advance the development of a local market.

Project Objectives

This project converted Sealaska Corporation’s corporate headquarters, from diesel fired boilers to a wood pellet fired boiler. This conversion will save around 35,000 gallons of heating oil annually for the Sealaska Plaza, a four story office building located in downtown Juneau.

The state objectives of this project were to

  1. Demonstrate that wood heat can be cost effective and feasible for large commercial, industrial, and municipal buildings, and to
  2. Investigate the potential creation of demand for Southeast Alaska second growth wood fiber.


Viessmann/KOB Boiler Systems


Viessmann/KOB boiler systems have been in use for 30 years in Europe. These systems had not been certified by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) until recently and therefore has not been available in the United States. The boiler uses wood pellets as its heat source. Wood pellet fired heat systems do not have problems with combustion like other wood fired systems because pellets are dependable heat sources that conform to industry standards of moisture content and size. It is the consistency of wood pellets that make wood a viable option for heating a building with as little operating costs as a conventional oil fired boiler system.

The Viessmann/KOB Pyrot series boiler is fully automated and remotely monitored and adjusted. This allows these systems to be installed anywhere and makes them ideal for remote Alaskan settings. Wood pellets are as reliable of a heat source as heating oil and are delivered to Alaska in bulk just like heating oil; but unlike heating oil, when the demand is eventually created for locally produced wood pellets, the wood fiber will be available and local mills will begin creating wood pellets for local use.

The Viessmann/KOB Pyrot boilers do not emit visible emissions and burn cleanly because of the consistency of wood pellets. This means that cold weather temperature inversions and burn bans do not apply to these boilers.

Work Plan

The boiler system was installed alongside the building's existing oil fired boiler and designed handle all of the building's heating needs. The oil boiler provides supplemental heat on the coldest days of the year and heats the building when the boiler is down for maintenance. Because of the existing boiler system, this was determined to be the most cost-effective system to install. Wood fired boilers cannot cycle like an oil fired one and need to be run at their most efficient setting. Installing a boiler to meet all of the building's design days would most likely result in too big of a boiler that would use an excessive amount of wood pellets. For the near future, most wood pellet installations will most likely come in the form of building conversions and will retain their existing fuel oil boilers. In this regard, the Sealaska project was a demonstration of these boiler conversions.

The challenges of this project were: 1) finding space to house the new boiler system and pellet feed silo and making space for the delivery truck in an urban downtown setting, 2) developing a system to bring bulk shipments of pellets into town and then delivering them in a conventionally sized truck similar to an oil delivery truck, 3) making the project as cost competitive as oil in the current economic situation 3) proving the reliability and ease of use of the system and finally 4) promoting the technology to grow the demand for the boiler systems which will ultimately create the demand for the local wood fiber.

Data and Analysis

Results from the 2011 Quarterly Report 1:

Cleaning and Maintenance

Initially, the boiler was scheduled to have bi-annual cleaning. This cleaning was to remove ash from the firebox, and clean the boiler tubes which is done manually. However, after the first cleaning, done at 2100 hours, it was determined that the boiler unit would need cleaning three times a year. The boiler must be shut down for a 24 hour period to cool prior to cleaning, which lowers overall efficiency. Overall there is very little maintenance required on the unit. Routine maintenance includes cleaning glass ports so level monitors can function properly and breaking up solidified ash so the ash removal auger can function properly. Very little ash waste is produced. At 106 tons of pellets and 2700 hours of operation, less than one trash can of ash was accumulated.1

Unanticipated Shutdowns

In addition to routine shutdowns for maintenance and cleaning. There were three unscheduled shutdowns. Most of these shutdowns occurred when no maintenance staff was working. While the technology is user friendly, and requires very little additional training to be able to use, having staff to address issues would be beneficial.

The unanticipated shutdowns occurred during periods of high wind. These shutdowns were due to an incorrect wind cap on the chimney. This has since been replaced with the correct type of cap. Additionally, on every cold days, the boiler has difficulty restarting when snuffed due to the firebox cooling, a damper has helped eliminate this issue.


The boiler saves Sealaska up to 3000 dollars a month in heating costs.

Funding and Partnerships

Recipient Sealaska Corporation
Project Title Commercial Scale Wood Pellet Fired Boiler
Funding Source(s) Denali Commission EETG Program
Funding Sponsor(s) Denali Commission
Grant Manager(s) Alaska Center for Energy and Power
Funding Amount $510,000.00
Match Funding $435,060.00 (Sealaska)
Project Timeline 10/09/2010 - 09/30/2011

Grant Sponsor


This project is a Denali Commission EETG Program project. The funding goal of the EETG program is to develop emerging energy technology that has the potential of widespread deployment in Alaska and has the long-term goal of reducing energy costs for Alaskans.

Project Recipient


Sealaska has strengthened business with culture since 1972. We are a Native Corporation owned by over 20,000 tribal member shareholders and guided by our traditions of environmental stewardship and positively impacting our communities. We are legendary traders who are deeply connected to our lands and have successfully adapted to constantly changing environments and global economies. We bring together the wisdom and foresight of our combined heritage to create an enduring corporation that provides business opportunities, benefits and cultural strength for our people.

Grant Management


The Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP), an energy research group housed under the Institute of Northern Engineering at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, is serving as the program manager of the EETG solicitation. As the projects deal with emerging energy technology and by nature are high risk, high reward, ACEP’s technical knowledge and objective academic management of the projects, specifically for data collection, analysis, and reporting, is a vital component to the intent of the solicitation, i.e., providing lessons learned and recommendations.

Project Links, Resources, and Documents

Milestone Reports

  • Check back later for Final Reports


Sealaska Pellet Boiler

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Sealaska Boiler Tour 2-14-11

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