Twenty Years Later:
Revisiting the growing
The State of New York is renowned
throughout the world for its
famous people, natural features
and institutions. It boasts the country’s
largest city, the Statue of Liberty, Wall
Street, Niagara Falls, two great lakes, the
Hudson River and, of course, the Yankees.
But the Empire State also has been a
leader in the district heating industry.
District heating was pioneered in Lockport,
N. Y., in 1877, and New York City currently
boasts one of the largest district heating
systems in the world. The state’s first hot
water cogeneration system was
launched in Jamestown, N. Y., in 1984,
setting an example that other municipalities would eventually follow.
Utilities (BPU) was created to consolidate
the development of the community’s
water and electric services. In 1950 the
Samuel A. Carlson Electric Generating
Station was built. Like the original
Jamestown plant, it continued to rely
solely on coal-fired boilers until the
1957 Federal Niagara Redevelopment
Act made it possible for municipal electric systems to obtain low-cost Niagara
hydropower. Adding this new, inexpensive (approx. $0.03/k W) energy source
to the mix in 1971 enabled the BPU to
keep electric rates low, which in turn
made it viable for customers to utilize
inexpensive electric heat even in the
cold Upstate New York winters.
From 1948 to 1969 the BPU also
operated a steam district heating system
in the central business district, but like
many such systems, it was ultimately
abandoned as building owners opted to
install their own furnaces or boilers. It
took the energy crises of the 1970s and
How It All Began
Located on the banks of the
Chadakoin River in upstate New York,
Jamestown is just 70 miles southwest of
Niagara Falls and 95 miles from Buffalo.
The city’s district energy system owes
its history to an unusual confluence of
geography, politics and entrepreneurship. The story begins in 1891 when the
City of Jamestown built its first electric
generating station to provide power for
140 carbon arc streetlights. Seeking
opportunities to amortize the plant’s
considerable equipment cost, the founders
decided to begin selling electricity to
private customers, thereby competing
with established local power producers.
In 1923 the formal Board of Public
Photo Jim Butler.
The Samuel A. Carlson Electric Generating Station was built in 1950. Today, two dozen Jamestown
BPU employees operate and maintain its boilers, steam turbine and district heating equipment.