Franklin Station was built in 1928 in conjunction with the Plummer Building to provide heat, electricity, and tempered water for the Mayo and Kahler Buildings. Methodist was added in 1975 as a partner. It is a co-generation plant, producing usable heat and electricity. Steam for heat is the main product of the plant, and electricity and cooling capacity are its major byproducts.
In 1980, the partners’ use of electricity had grown to where it exceeded the capacity of the plant. More electricity was purchased each year from the city. Further, the demand for cooling capacity was expected to be exceeded in the mid-1980s and for heat in the 1990s. To meet these expectations, a $5 million building project at Franklin Heating Station was established to increase the reliability and extend the life of the plant.
The main addition was a diesel-driven electric generator to start the boilers and to supply power for elevators and emergency lighting systems in the event of a power outage. Other improvements included a new tie line to the city’s Silver Lake plant (which supplied a portion of the three institutions’ electrical power), water treatment equipment for boiler water, water-softening equipment, and modern oil-burning equipment and controls for two boilers. Greater usage of oil as a fuel was expected because of the decreasing availability and rising cost of natural gas.
Franklin Station was an energy conservation project decades ahead of its time. It was cited in 1978 in a federal Department of Energy publication on new trends in energy-generation and conservation. Its co-generation system is twice as energy-efficient as conventional methods.