In 1922, Western set a new standard for heating innovation when it fired up two small, coal-fed steam boilers that could keep the two buildings on campus comfortably warm.
A hundred years later, the university’s power plant is at the heart of new and planned industry-leading innovations to support Western’s shift towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050, while at the same time heating and cooling several dozen buildings on campus.
“This is a foundation for our low-carbon future,” said Heather Hyde, Western’s sustainability director. “We’re transforming the plant from a district heating system into a fifth-generation system that combines heating and cooling into one highly efficient loop, and also has flexibility to add in renewable energy sources.”
Western’s power plant, tucked into the core of campus, marks its centennial this year. Western operates one of the largest district heating/cooling plants in Ontario.
It supports Western’s student recreation centre at the south end and University Hospital campus of London Health Sciences Centre at its north end, and everything in between, simultaneously providing heat to the pools, cool air to the operating rooms, and warmth to the classrooms.
“There are a lot of hands working together, a lot of collaboration to make sure campus gets the temperatures it needs, whenever and wherever it’s required,” said Thomas Stein, manager of physical plant operations and leader of the 13 stationary engineers who keep the place running day and night.