The Late 1800s to the Early 1950s
The origin of Notre Dame Utilities dates back to the late 1800s. At that time, a steam plant adjacent to the Main Building served the small campus. Near the turn of the 19th century, a new steam plant was built where the University Health Center sits today. The plant’s current site was first occupied in 1932. Over the last several decades, there have been significant expansions of our facilities.
Steam for heating was the original product of Notre Dame Utilities. Prior to the early 1950s, the demand for electricity was small and not worth the production effort. As the campus and electrical demand grew in the early 1950s, the generation of electricity became an issue, thereby motivating Notre Dame to become the first university in the United States to generate electricity.
The Mid-1950s to the Present
As the demand for electricity grew, cogenerating electricity became the logical next step in Notre Dame’s overall utility system. The cogeneration of electricity as a byproduct of steam-heating the campus is a very cost-effective and environmentally friendly process. The University used cogeneration to provide all of its own electricity from 1953 to 1970. As electrical demand outpaced the demand for steam, additional electricity was purchased from the local utility provider.
With the construction of the Hesburgh Library in 1962, Notre Dame Utilities began to centrally produce chilled water to cool campus buildings. Originally, chilled was produced directly by steam-driven turbines. In 1984, chilled water demand increased; therefore, the cogeneration process was implemented to provide electricity as a byproduct of the production of chilled water.
While the demands for steam, chilled water, and electricity have increased steadily over time, the relative growth for these three commodities has shifted, with demands for cooling and electricity outpacing that of steam (on a per-square-foot basis). This shift is a result of the improved design of building envelopes, the growing use of electrical equipment inside buildings, and an increased reliance on cooling for personal comfort.