ASME-Landmark:Detroit Edison District Heating System
In 1877, Birdsill Holly at Lockport, New York, introduced district heating, showing how a single large steam plant could operate at higher overall thermal efficiency than a series of small isolated boilers, especially in the commercial districts of cities.
In 1903 officials of the newly formed Detroit Edison Company in Michigan, made the decision to establish the wholly-owned Edison Illuminating Company's Willis Avenue generating station as a district heating source. The exhaust from its steam engines would be used to heat buildings in the neighborhood, to improve thermal efficiency.
With 3000 feet of mains and 12 customers, the company began operation on December 10, 1903. During the next year expansion began. That summer, 9,865 feet of mains were added, and the company began increasing its heating system by building the Farmer Street plant, which operated until 1926. It was replaced by an electrical substation and its capacity transferred to newer heating plants. The Farmer Street Plant was followed by a plant at Park Place in 1912 (which operated only until 1927), the Congress Street plant at 1917, and the Beacon Street Plant in 1926.
Prior to 1972, all boilers in the Central Heating System were coal-fired, with underfed-type stokers. But as more stringent, state-mandated pollution-control standards were implemented, a decision was made to convert the Beacon Street boilers to natural gas as the primary fuel, and No. 2 fuel oil for back-up. See ASME website for more information