Editors note: The following article is reprinted from the
Pennsylvania Power & Light Reporter, with permission.
Mention a generating plant and most of us think of electric
PP&L’s oldest active generation facility doesn’t
produce electricity, though. It produces steam for heating.
The Walnut plant in Harrisburg was built in 1890 by Excelsior
Electric Co. of Harrisburg. It was designed originally as a
hydroelectric project with steam equipment.
The hydroelectric units utilized ‘state-of-the-art’
technology four water wheels which drew their power from the
adjacent Pennsylvania Canal. Lighting in downtown Harrisburg was
provided by power generated from these wheels, while steam produced
at the plant heated homes and businesses in the area. As the years
passed, the electric facilities at Walnut were upgraded until the
capacity reached 1,750 kilowatts.
In 1928, Excelsior merged with PP&L. As a result of this
merger, one of the most durable plants in the system became an
important link in providing ‘service’ to PP&L
Electricity was generated at Walnut until 1951, when the company
decided it would not be cost effective to renovate and maintain the
needed facilities. Instead, modifications were made to the existing
steam units to make them more efficient and the plant continued to
generate steam for the Harrisburg steam heat system.
In 1972, $3 million was invested in the plant. The aging
coal-fired boilers were replaced by three oil-fired units, with the
exception of boiler No. 12 which was adapted for use as an
oil-fired unit. The No. 12 boiler was built in 1948.
Today, 36,600 feet of underground pipe transports steam heat to
many buildings in Harrisburg. Some of the structures served are the
Pennsylvania state capitol buildings, Holiday Inn, Harrisburg
Steel, Harristown Building, the United State Post Office and the
Dauphin County Courthouse. Six hundred steam meters are changed and
overhauled annually. Operation and maintenance of all facilities
are performed by 42 employees and monthly reports are completed
under the direction of Richard F. Showers, who has been plant
superintendent since 1970.
Declining sales of steam in recent years and operating costs
that have exceeded revenues have prompted the company to consider
selling the plant. A number of alternatives, including expansion of
the operation, were investigated before the decision to put Walnut
up for sale was made. Any sales agreement would be subject to the
approval of the Pennsylvania public Utility Commission.
‘PP&L will continue to provide reliable service to its
customers by operating the plant with the care and concern it has
always shown until any agreements are reached,’ say