VA plans to use fuel oil for heating buildings

Using fuel oil for heating is so yesterday, yet that is exactly what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plans to use for its heating system at its proposed facilities at Alameda Point.

The heating system for the VA’s medical clinic and offices, as currently proposed, will utilize a boiler system heated by fuel oil.  The VA Project Manager, Kelvin Slaton, recently confirmed that it will be installing an underground fuel oil storage tank for boilers and a backup generator.  Slaton did not respond by press time as to why the VA did not choose a solar-powered electric heat pump.

One reason for not choosing an electric heat pump could be the high electricity demand of heat pumps.  This makes the pumps more costly to operate compared to heating with natural gas or fuel oil.  But the VA has enough land at Alameda Point to set up a small solar facility with battery storage for its own facilities and even sell the excess power.

The VA’s 2013 federal environmental impact report said that its clinic building would be super green, with LEED certification.  LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.  It would meet this standard in part, said the report, by use of a 90 percent efficiency boiler.  Today, seven years later, it is hard to imagine a project in California in 2020 claiming to be green while burning fuel oil, especially when greener alternatives are available.

The VA parking lot will have solar panels on parking lot canopies similar to the ones in the photo of parking lot at Abbott Diabetes Care on South Loop Road in Harbor Bay Business Park, Alameda.

The 2013 environmental report gave a token nod to solar power by saying 10 percent of the VA’s electricity demand would be supplied by solar panels on parking lot canopies.  But why stop there when they have so much land and the added upfront costs for solar panels and batteries could be partially offset by selling excess electricity?

The solar facility could be located on the land set aside for an 80-acre columbarium cemetery that will be built in phases over the next 100 years.  The first phase of the cemetery will use 20 acres.  Thereafter, roughly six acres of columbarium niches will be added every 10 years on the remaining 60 acres.  This means, for example, that 36 acres at the far end of the cemetery footprint next to the Bay will not be used for cemetery purposes for the next 40 years.

A 36-acre VA solar facility could produce 6 megawatts of electricity, which is far more than they would need for an electric heat pump and other electrical demands.

Alameda Point has a valuable asset on the old aircraft runway area for converting to a carbon-free economy – both on the federal VA property and on City property.  It is time to make use of this asset to meet city, state and international climate-action goals.

There is currently, and for the foreseeable future, not enough carbon-free electricity available for every community to be 100 percent green like Alameda.  The more we produce locally, the more we help our neighbors.

There are additional reasons for local solar.  Every acre in an urban area used for solar is one less acre of desert that is disturbed by a solar farm.  And it avoids increasingly expensive transmission costs and power lost during transmission from far away desert facilities.

A VA solar facility would be a reliable round-the-clock energy source by adding battery storage, which would allow the medical facilities to operate even during power outages.

In 2019, the City of Alameda adopted a Climate Action and Resiliency Plan.   The City also passed a local Climate Emergency declaration  in 2019, which said in part:

City of Alameda joins a nationwide call for a regional just transition away from fossil fuels and urgent climate mobilization collaborative effort focused on transforming our region, enacting policies that dramatically reduce heat-trapping emissions, and rapidly catalyzing a mobilization at all levels of government to restore a safe climate;

Alameda Municipal Power should consider partnering with the VA for a solar future.  There is still time for the VA to go carbon free.

Originally published in the Alameda Sun.

Author: richard94501

My blog is Alameda Point Environmental Report covering environmental issues from wildlife to cleanup at the former Navy base in Alameda now called Alameda Point. Articles on my blog are frequently printed in the Alameda Sun newspaper. I also host a Twitter site and a Flickr photo site. I hope you find my stories and photos of interest. Richard Bangert Alameda, California

One thought on “VA plans to use fuel oil for heating buildings”

  1. The use of fire for generating heat is indeed not rational. The article and facsimile here as a blog entry is extremely unfortunate besides sounding the alarm in proposing that photovoltaic electricity operate an electric motor to operate a pump of some sort using liquid refrigerant and either the heat in the ground for the heat from the air. The ideal solution is to recognize that we can do far better than burning and any other kind of what monolithic or overly simple or cost no object from the Funda mentalistic I think this the correct word nonsense. I am not familiar with this long-term planning that you have reported on possibly not ever coming to fruition in any form in terms of its scale. You’re conceding that electricity might cost more is rather bizarre no decent heat pump would have an electric bill higher than an oil or natural gas bill. However you can use natural gas turbines to spin the axle for heat pumps and you can generate electricity by burning fuel and using the expansion of the combustion gases to drive turbines to do Anythink. Now that word has a g on the end but I’d like to see more of it with a K so I’m not going to correct the spelling of the last word of my prior sentence.

    Heat is best produced as a byproduct of generating mechanical work. The facility is assumed to be too small for any kind of real discussion about how they should proceed to be occurring or any competitive bidding process of apparently 2 occur. When the ocean water is accessible the head should be drawn from at the oceans have a surplus of heat currently and are at a high temperature and the heat is very efficiently extracted by the use of even a diesel operated heat pump. If the site has Natural Gas then it’s likely the optimal solution would be to use the turbine and generate electricity with the mechanical work dad efficiently burning the Natural Gas can produce at no additional fuel consumption cost but extremely large percentage of the otherwise wasted energy can be converted into electricity.

    In other words a modern natural gas power plant should be sighted at this facility and instead of using chillers to dispose of the heat the heat can be used to heat the building.

    If solar energy is being used I do not agree with Australians who say that because solar panels are so cheap electrical resistance should be the way that you heat water. Nor do I agree that it efficient or so-called Efficient Electric Motors should be driving heat pumps when the source of the energy is from the Sun. I highly recommend you do a Blog article about the Breakthrough in desalination and contrast it with California privatized and apparently no Escape to ratepayers reverse osmosis, versus the modern now peer-reviewed and published open-source multi-step process of using the fusion in the Sun two very low cost infrastructure wise separate the sodium from the water by a process of low temperature distillation again that does not use much of materials does not require much tooling the manufacturer and is extremely productive.

    To put it again in more simple English you don’t turn photons into electricity if your goal is to produce a light. You row Downstream oh, and you capture the energy that the sun is providing and you can do a variety of things to amplify that heat you can create Vapors that grab the Heat from the atmosphere which is a heat pump of course when you have solar radiation to access it can create the heat pumping action that you seek. Although this blog opposes the executive effort to privatize the entire providing of healthcare I don’t think you oppose privatizing and Outsourcing heat as utility so that the free market can pitch high cost for low cost creative proven Technologies.

    At University I suffer at the humidity and the heat in Chicago and relatively recently was not amused by the YouTube channels the district eating career path as spawns and I guess these quasi professionals are called District energy managers but they don’t have any background in the relevant areas of knowledge like physics barely engineer and it is amazing that the videos I saw years ago got published at all because they are utterly scandalous.

    We have the new materials that change faces when you apply pressure and these are the best heat pump building blocks we have ever seen. When it comes to using solar energy to pressurize the material so that it can absorb or release Heat very very efficiently at very low cost and the word here is colossal, and this is a market-ready technology according to the prize given to it by the global cooling prize, 700 Watts for 18000 BTU cooling for example 700 Watts at most, is an example of what that technology can do and I understand it’s not ready for an architect to Incorporated in the bed but it might be ready by the time and are correct architect needs to Incorporated in the bed.

    Very much apologize for the typos and word choice the Google voice typing is imposing here but I just hope that the extent that you have any voice in this building design you can try the save the VA money in the short-term and the long-term. The government needs to lease the heating system and that will allow it to conserve capital have reduced operating costs and not waste Heat in terms of the expansion. I do not like to burn fuel but if the risk as you say is to burn it at extremely low efficiencies like 90% or 110% as opposed to be generating electricity that creates heat pump line performance in the value that you get from burning this is not difficult to force. We have to mitigate the damage and if you are incapable of stopping a boiler from being installed when multiple manufacturers in Europe are producing cogeneration boilers and this is a very old established technology and even in California or Oilers are being used they capture the heat that is in the exhaust for campuses and this is not proposed here apparently and it is a high Capital solution that only makes sense in retrofit and this is not retrofit. When it comes to concentrating thermal with storage it is something that is very cost-effective for heating a building because the amount of storage is not limited you can store heat from the summer. You can integrate the storage into the building architecture having the molten salt being under the floors so that the building has extreme resilience you can lose the power for the entire winter and with the heat that is stored from the concentrating solar you can have tremendous benefit.

    Photovoltaic tag heat pump technology is not going to win any competitive process it is just insane to needlessly convert energy into electricity and back into some other form of energy or work to do so to harvest rebates was never ethical and it does not appear to be an issue here. I love heat pump technology but I love Superior Technologies Superior Lee. When you operate an engine you can compress air and you can store compressed air you can take the heat out of the air to use for your heating district and sell the liquefied nitrogen and oxygen and of course a VA hospital with this may not be needs a lot of oxygen and it has vehicles that need energy and can be operated by turbines driven by mixing it liquify not nitrogen with plain old are because when you mix these two free products one has value-added and the other is just what you might be blowing across a water heat Radiator in an internal combustion engine powered vehicle but you can mix them for almost nothing in terms of the hardware to mix the air that is available outside the vehicle with the liquefied nitrogen that is in the tank in the vehicle at atmospheric pressure and that drives a turbine that provides free cooling to the vehicle on the supper and incredible performance at incredible low cost for the horsepower.

    If you have not understood the physics you need to review it. The forces of nature are underutilized


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