Reader's View: Steam plant conversion a waste of money
I have a steam background from service aboard a U.S. Merchant Marine steamship and was licensed as a steam engineer by the state of Minnesota. I say the Duluth Steam Plant conversion to a hot water system is a waste of money and unneeded technology. Basic steam is able to transmit heat through many miles of normally steam-insulated piping systems while a hot-water system needs fancier insulation and pumping systems.
The only reason for a steam system to become a hot water system, in my view, is a lack of qualified operators of the steam system. Using hot water allows unlicensed contractors and workers to do work that once required a licensed steam engineer to oversee.
The lack of steamboats and steam mechanical plant systems in present-day operations has made steam-licensed engineers more valuable. Many of the power systems aboard ships and plants are now diesel or electric, so skilled engineers need to be imported from places that need to use steam technology.
Duluth apparently is too cheap to hire these people and spend money on the repair and upkeep of what we have. The hot water system will be much more costly in the long run, and the mechanical contractors and street diggers will make a bundle of money.
This upgrade seems to me to be based on who makes the money here. I suspect it's the friends of City Hall. Duluth should have kept the Duluth Steam Plant independent of City Hall. It should be a users' cooperative.