District Heat

About District Heating

District Heating is a proven technology for supplying space and process heat from a central source and transporting it through a closed loop piping distribution system to individual buildings. It is a thermal energy network carrying hot water or steam from a central production station to service the energy requirements of commercial, residential, institutional and industrial buildings.

Co-generation is a term used to describe the process of utilizing the heat (thermal energy) which was wasted during the production of electrical energy, as the primary source of energy for a District Heating system.

By capturing and using the wasted thermal energy from the process of electric power production, co-generation "squeezes" more energy out of each unit of fuel consumed and can raise the efficiency of power plants from about 30% to nearly 80%. As the cost of natural gas and oil escalates, the economies of building District Heating systems become much more viable.

First Hot Water Co-Generation Heating System in New York

The City of Jamestown began construction of the first hot water co-generation district heating system in New York State in 1984. Ground was broken in August, 1984, for an $800,000 "pilot" District Heating System. Hot water from the City's Samuel A. Carlson Electric Generating Station was used to heat several nearby buildings, including the former Jamestown General Hospital, Jamestown Plywood Corporation, and the City's Department of Public Works and Board of Public Utilities' garages on Steele Street.

The pilot system worked so well during the 1984 to 1985 winter heating season and saved our customers so much on their space heating costs, that it was decided to proceed with construction of a full-fledged system into the central business district. This $4 million project was completed in October, 1985, and, served nineteen customers with a peak load of approximately 13 megawatts (MW) thermal.

Steam District Heating Systems

It was originally "invented" in Lockport, New York in 1877.

However, steam District Heating systems were abandoned in most communities as the supplies of other energy sources, such as oil and natural gas, became plentiful and inexpensive. In addition, steam is difficult to transmit over long distances and the returned condensate is highly corrosive to piping systems.

As the costs to replace piping for steam transmission systems out-paced the prices for natural gas and oil, most building owners installed their own furnaces for heat. Today, there are a few steam District Heating systems left in this country and, power companies which still operate steam District Heating systems want to abandon them.

Using Water to Create Heat

However, in Europe, where oil and natural gas prices have always been very high, a new method of transporting the thermal energy has been developed. Instead of using steam, it was decided to use water as the thermal transmission agent. Hot water (250 degrees Fahrenheit) can be easily pumped for many miles from the heat source (i.e, power plant). New piping systems were also developed using insulated carbon steel pipe with a built-in electronic leak detection system.

These technological advances have greatly increased the economic viability of District Heating.

The Jamestown Story

The City of Jamestown operated its own coal-fired electrical generating plant, located near the central business district. Jamestown operated a steam District Heating System from approximately 1948 to 1969, when it was finally abandoned as individual building owners installed gas-fired furnaces or boilers to supply their heat requirements. However, as the price of natural gas escalated rapidly in the early 1980s, we began to re-evaluate the concept of District Heating.

Planning for District Heating

Planning for Jamestown's District Heating project began in 1981 with the help of a $38,500 contract / grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The grant financed a preliminary engineering review of the possibility of utilizing waste heat energy from the City's power plant to be the source energy for a district heating distribution system. It was at this time that, the Mayor's Citizen Ad Hoc Advisory Task Force on District Heating was formed made up of private citizen volunteers. Working with City staff, they provided the overall guidance to the research and development effort.

Funding of a District Heating System

With a favorable report from Burns and Roe Company of Oradell, New Jersey, Jamestown began seeking sources to fund a detailed engineering report to actually construct a District Heating system. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority agreed with the Burns and Roe preliminary engineering report and sponsored a $350,000 second phase project. The City committed an additional $100,000 to complete the engineering design.

On June 25, 1984, at the request of the Mayor, the Citizens Ad Hoc Advisory Task Force and the Board of Public Utilities, the Jamestown City Council authorized the creation of a District Heating Division within the Board of Public Utilities. They also approved an $800,000 bond issue to finance construction of a "pilot" District Heating system.

Building the System

Ground was broken in August, 1984, for the "pilot" District Heating system. On November 2, 1984, the valve wheel in the Samuel A. Carlson Generating Plant was turned and thousands of gallons of hot water gushed through 4,000 feet of carbon-steel pipe inaugurating the first District Heating system in New York State, and one of the first in the nation.

On February 21, 1985, the Board of Public Utilities petitioned the City Council to approve an additional $4 million bond issue to permit the expansion of the "pilot" system into the central business district. City Council approved the bond issue on March 11, 1985 on the premise that construction and operating cost would be borne by the system users and not the City's taxpayers.


Contracts for piping and installation of the piping, totaling nearly $2.4 million were awarded to I.C. Moller of Denmark and John W. Danforth Company of Buffalo. Danforth installed in excess of 21,000 lineal feet (more than four miles) of transmission piping during the summer and early fall of 1985. Additional contracts, totaling more than $400,000 for piping and electrical work required inside the power plant were awarded to Joseph Davis, Inc. of Buffalo and B&E Electric Corporation of Jamestown.