With barely six weeks left before Concord Steam shuts down, downtown is getting torn up to prepare replacement systems for some state and city buildings.
Traffic was limited Thursday on Green Street in front of City Hall and the police department, as trenches were dug for water lines and natural gas lines for boilers that will replace the current steam hit system. The work is slated to be finished Friday and the street should return to having all lanes open.
A 500-horsepower gas-fired boiler will be placed in a trailer in the parking lot of the state Department of Justice building, across Green Street from the police station, to create steam that will be sent into six state buildings that are heated by what is known as the “downtown loop.” They are the State House, its annex, the Legislative Office Building, the Department of Justice building, the New Hampshire State Library and the Upham-Walker House.
State government will lease the underground pipes owned by Concord Steam and use them as needed for the remainder of this heating season and at least part of next heating season, said Michael Connor, deputy administrator with the Department of Administrative Services for the state government.
Eventually, the state government will install a permanent boiler in or under the parking lot and bury new steam lines to serve the State House, library and annex.
“In the historic buildings, it’s just not possible to rip out the steam pipes (and) replace them,” Connor said.
The other three state buildings on the downtown loop will be heated with forced hot water systems served by individual boilers for each building.
Concord Steam is shutting down May 31 after eight decades providing steam heat throughout downtown Concord from its wood-fired boiler off Pleasant Street. It has struggled with technical and financial issues for years, but the death knell came from the low price of natural gas, which allowed competitor Liberty Utilities to lure away customers with much cheaper heating. Some 180 buildings throughout Concord were still using Concord Steam at the start of this heating season.
Liberty Utilities is buying the company’s customer list and easements for $1.9 million, but not the power plant – which is actually owned by the state government – or underground steam pipes.
The city of Concord is also switching its steam-heated buildings around City Hall to gas-fired boilers. The new line coming to Green Street will carry natural gas from existing Liberty Utilities gas lines downtown.
A water line is needed to service the boiler in the Justice building parking lot, Connor said.
At the Hugh J. Gallen State Office Park, temporary boilers are being installed to service 16 state buildings still using steam heat. All will eventually have gas-hired hot water heat.
The scores of private buildings using Concord Steam are in various stages of obtaining replacement heating systems, an issue that has produced considerable discussion about who should pay.
Four city schools are also transitioning away from steam heat, including Concord High School, where construction has been going on for some time.
(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or email@example.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)