With more than 100 miles of steam piping and nearly 2,000 buildings served, New York’s steam system is the largest in the world.
Watch the video and say whether the statements below are true or false. The activity is suitable for advanced students.
1 Half a million citizens use steam.
2 Using steam as a source of energy means that chimneys are not necessary.
3 New York´s steam system is the largest in the world.
4 All of Manhattan uses steam as a source of energy.
5 Steam can be used both in winter and in summer.
6 The steam system went underground after the bad weather in 1898.
7 The steam pipe at 32 Gramercy Park South exploded because of the works that had been carried out in front of the building.
8 Steam is more environmentally-friendly than standard electricity.
Currently of the 105 miles of steam piping, there’s almost 2,000 buildings that utilise steam. The largest 300 buildings are over half a million square feet.
Had it not been for the steam system, the postcard skyline that you see of Manhattan would be totally different. You´d be looking at every one of these high risers with some type of chimney coming out it.
When you go to a restaurant, the dishwasher that cleans the dishes it’s powered by New York City´s steam. When you go to a hospital, the air is humidified with district steam.
Steam allows us to very closely moderate the relative humidity in the gallery, both for the long-term preservation of our own collection and for the preservation of works that are entrusted to us on loan.
We’re doing a few of our cheese-making steps, we have actually have our curd, we’re going to heat that up to 100 degrees, and so we’ll use the steam to set it through jackets and circulate it through our vats right here and heat up the product.
One of the uniqueness about New York´s steam system is that it’s the largest in the world. If you took the next nine steam systems and added them together, New York´s steam system is still the largest.
We have a pretty active complex here. We produce steam and electric to, I’d say, 55% of all steam in Manhattan. It´s all through that technology of these big boilers heat up the steam and then that steam gets distributed outside of the plant, with these big, big pipes, and then it traverses out of the plant and down underneath the streets of Manhattan.
Alright, so here, so we’ll give you a quick tour of what the steam lines do. So in here now it’s about 90º, it´s about 90% humidity. This is a typical steam room. We´ve got steam flowing over here, it´s messy business. Con Ed comes in, comes in over here, it comes across all these meters, these are the Con Ed steam meters and it comes in a feed this header over here, so all the steam for the entire facility gets brought to this header and fed out to all the different places.
That steam has a lot of energy. And it goes in infrastructure and it rises up through the building and then gets distributed to individual rooms throughout the building for heating, for cooling and air-conditioning.
Since instead of driving a motor on an air-conditioner with electricity you can use steam, so steam actually offsets a lot of the electric demands in the summer by providing cooling power to these buildings.
New York City´s first steam system was built by Wallace Andrews. In 1881 a plant opened up and within four years they had over 350 customers in place in Lower Manhattan, which was incredibly successful. But then after the blizzard in 1888 which essentially destroyed all the above-ground wiring, they finally agreed to an underground system. As they lay the electricity cables, they lay the steam pipe down and they essentially built New York City around electricity and steam coming into all the large commercial and residential buildings, starting in Lower Manhattan and then as Midtown was built in the earlier part of the 20th century, they built steam and electricity coming into the basement of each of the buildings. The New York City´s steam system by the 1920´s and 30´s fed 2500 locations and reached over 100,000 commercial and residential buildings.
We really apply a lot of really neat sciences to a huge of steam now compared to in the past. In the past, it wasn´t as efficient as it is now. Right now we monitor a ton of parameters that are… that can create mortal havoc in that steam.
My wife and I were in our apartment which was on the 3rd floor of 32 Gramercy Park South, and the building started to vibrate, there was an incredibly loud roaring noise and then somebody figured it out that the steam pipe that had been worked on in front of the building had exploded.
What happens when steam hits cold water is that it collapses at an incredibly high rate, and creates a hydraulic shock called water hammer, and that is the force that blew apart the line and then it sent asbestos and created the incident down in Gramercy.
I came through and came through Grand Central Station and as I looked south I heard this huge noise and saw all sort of chaos.
2007 was again an anomaly in the, both these incidents are, you know, unique over the last 100+ years. They’ve changed pretty much every aspect that had any sort of contributing factor to that.
Steam is throughout the city and is used for just a tremendous amount of reasons. NYU has the largest private land … facility in Manhattan right now. The first year of savings was around $5m, so there was an immediate savings by producing our own power. The environmental benefit, because the plant is much more efficient and much greener were tremendous as well, over 30% of reduction in emissions. For sustainability and environmental reasons and also resiliency reasons, having onsite smaller co-generation plants around the city makes us a greener city, makes us a more resilient city.
We´re using engineering to make a more comfortable life for people in our society. If we pretend that we are in some bizarre parallel universe and the New York City’s steam system was never built, it would be a different city than it is right now.
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