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2007 IEEE Conference on the History of Electric Power

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2007 IEEE Conference on the History of Electric Power

1882 was a momentous year for electric power. Most important was the inauguration on September 4th of that year of Thomas Edison's power station on Pearl Street in New York City. Edison, who had invented a practical incandescent bulb in 1879, developed an electric-power system to make electric lighting available to large numbers of people. The Pearl Street generator produced 100 kilowatts and served some 500 customers in lower Manhattan. Earlier that year, the Edison company in Britain had put into service a power station at Holborn Viaduct in London. This was the first commercial central station in the world, but it was intended only as a temporary installation, so the Pearl Street station is often regarded as marking the beginning of electric-power distribution.

Several other central stations began operating before the end of 1882. On 30 September, in Appleton, Wisconsin, a hydroelectric station, rated at about 12 kilowatts, went into service; and in October 1882, a rival to Edison's company, the United States Electric Illuminating Company, opened its first central station in South Carolina. (These two power stations are recognized as IEEE Milestones in Electrical Engineering and Computing.) Charles Brush, inventor of electric arc-lamps, built a central power station in New York City that powered both incandescent and arc lights, that went into service on 19 December 1882.

In Europe as well, the year 1882 was an exciting one for the people and companies developing the new electrical technologies. Two international electrical exhibitions took place that year, one in the Crystal Palace in South London and the other in Munich. In Germany, a leading developer was Werner Siemens, who was one of the first to see how important electrical technology would be to mining. The Siemens & Halske company built the first electric mine-locomotive, which was first utilized on 25 August 1882 at a mine in Lower Saxony.

The IEEE History Committee and the IEEE History Center, cosponsored by IEEE and by Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, announced an installment in their regular series of conferences: The 2007 IEEE Conference on the History of Electric Power.

The conference was held on the campus of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in Newark, New Jersey, USA, from Friday 3 August through Sunday 5 August 2007. The New Jersey Institute of Technology was a perfect venue for such a conference: Home to the Edward Weston Papers, it is close to the Edison National Historic Site, which is undergoing major renovation and is soon to reopen. The site is convenient by public transportation to the New York area airports and to New York City.

The Closing Luncheon sponsor
The Closing Luncheon sponsor

Conference papers dealt with all aspects of electric power and its applications from the 19th century to the present. A congenial group of some 65 engineers, historians, museum curators, and others, dozens of fascinating papers, plenty of time for informal discussion, and some interesting excursions.

The conference was technically cosponsored by the IEEE Power Engineering Society, the IEEE North Jersey Section, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.




Welcoming Comments:

IEEE representative: Richard Gowen, Chair, IEEE History Committee

NJIT representative: Atam Dhawan, Chair, NJIT Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

PSE&G representative: Rodney Dickens, PSE&G, Vice President, Asset Management and Centralized Services,

Opening address: Jack Casazza: Forgotten Roots

The talk will review the origin of the electric power industry, the founding of the electric power profession, and the importance of electric power to our national development in the 20th century. Four time periods will be reviewed: 1885-1945, the Young Profession; 1945-1965, the Golden Age; 1965-1990, the Changing World; and 1990-2006, the Turbulence. Developments in the power equipment manufacturing industry, the utilities, in government, in the IEEE and in the universities will be covered.

Break 9:30 – 9:45


Marko Delimar, Josip Moser,Aleksandar Szabo: First AC Power Systems in Croatia

The development of electrical systems in Croatia, at that time a part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, started with first DC systems around 1880. The first AC power system in Croatia was set in operation on 28 August 1895, three days after the power plant on the Niagara Falls. The two generators (42 Hz, 550 kW each) and the transformers were produced and installed by the Hungarian company Ganz. The transmission line from the power plant to the City of Šibenik was 11.5 km long on wooden towers, and the municipal distribution grid 3000V/110 V included six transforming stations. The system supplied 340 street lights and some electrified houses in the town. Three years later after the first Jaruga power plant, the construction of the second Jaruga hydro plant began. Two three phase, 50 Hz, 5.5 MW generators were installed. A new transmission system was built and the local grid enlarged. After Jaruga I and II, additional power plants and transmission lines have been constructed. It is curious that Nikola Tesla, a pioneer of AC systems, was born in Smiljan near Gospic, approximately 100 km north of Šibenik where the first power plant in Croatia was constructed. It may be a coincidence that in May 1892, Tesla held a lecture on alternating systems in the City Hall of Zagreb (the capital of Croatia) at the time of the beginning of the preparations to construct the Jaruga I hydro plant.

Moon-Hyon Nam: Korean History of Korean Electric Light and Power Development

In 1987 a ceremony took place at Gyeongbokgung palace in Seoul to celebrate the centennial of the first Korean electric light plant, the First Electric Plant. The plant is recognized as a historic milestone that initiated the nation modernization process during the late 19th century. In addition to its original lighting service within the royal residence, it eventually facilitated the successful launch of the nation first electric business corporation, namely the Seoul Electric Company. This accelerated the nation modernization process by extending electricity and power service to the public. It managed to provide an integrated service that included street-light, telephone, and electric train--a new transportation system. Today, the Korean government is planning to reconstruct this earliest electric plant that had been closed after the construction of its successor. It is an effort to restore its landmark facility that is significant both historically and technologically. This paper attempts to serve as an early research for this project by providing a chronological overview of the installation and development of electric light and power. It will mainly focus on the initial stages of the process discussing the construction of two original electric plants and the operations of the earliest commercial electric company during the period of 1887 and 1901. The paper will also shed light on the pioneer effort led by King Gojong, the reform-minded leader who advocated the adoption of advanced technology from the Western hemisphere. This was an endeavor which had a basis to reinstate the nation sovereignty that would frequently be undermined by the neighboring countries at the time. Furthermore, this paper will call for world-wide attention and cooperation in addition to the domestic effort among Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA), History Committee at the Korean Institute of Electrical Engineers (KIEE) and Electricity Museum of Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO).

Short break

Sandhya Madan: History of Electric Power in India (1890 – 1990)

This paper gives an overview of the origins and development of hydroelectric and thermal power systems in India. Most of the early power generating stations, which were developed when India was a colony of the British, were hydroelectric in nature. These pre-independence generating stations fed loads in the urban areas, and the electrification of the villages was done mostly after 1947. The Electricity Supply Act of 1948 saw the emergence of State Electricity Boards (SEBs). The SEBs led to the rise of Regional Electricity Boards, and efforts are being made to integrate the various regional grids into a single national grid. The latter half of the century saw inroads being made into other forms of energy, including nuclear and wind.

Mukesh Kafle: Electric Power in Nepal: History, Experiences, and Possibilities

The history of electricity development of Nepal began with construction of Pharping Hydroelctric Plant ( 500 KW) in 1911. Today, Nepal has an electric power of total installed capacity 609 MW in Integrated Power System with the major contribution from 25 hydroelectric plants. Out of the total electric power, about 91 percent comes from hydroelectric plants, thre remaining 9 percent from diesel plants. Electricity demand in Nepal has been increasing rapidly for many years, with growth of industry and the use of electrical appliances. During the Rana Regime (1846-1951) few attempts were made for initiating economic development until 1935, when a development agency was constituted. In 1956 began the first Five Year Plan, and it was been followed by nine other Five Year Plans. Experiences prove that electricity development in Nepal in the past has not been smooth as planned. This is not only due to lack of technology and dearth of technical skills but also dependency on friendly nations for investment.

Satoru Yanabu, M. Yamamoto: History of the Keage Hydroelectric Power Station

Keage Hydroelectric Power Station was the first hydroelectric station in Japan. Water came from Biwako Lake to Kyoto. There was a DC generator capable of different voltages, a 50-Hz three-phase generator, as well as single-phase and two-phase generators. The transmission system was therefore complicated. This station led to a strong industrialization of the area. At that time the Japanese Emperor changed his residence from Kyoto to Tokyo, and the governor of Kyoto was very eager to promote industries in the Kyoto area. Before the Keage Hydro Power Station, there were other power stations to generate electric power by steam turbine and some small private generators by water turbine in Japan, but their scale was relatively small, as Keage was first large hydro power station.

Lunch 12:15 – 1:15


W. Bernard Carlson: Nikola Tesla and the Idea of Broadcasting Electric Power, 1890-1905

In 1890, after developing a successful alternating current motor, Nikola Tesla began investigating electro-magnetic waves. Within a short time, he not only duplicated the experiments of Heinrich Hertz but improved upon the Hertz apparatus by developing a high-frequency transformer which came to be known as the Tesla Coil. Using this new device, Tesla now faced the challenge of figuring how this new phenomena—radio waves—might be developed as a practical technology. Unlike his later rival Marconi who chose to focus on developing wireless telegraphy, Tesla instead sought to use electro-magnetic waves to improve the distribution of electric light and power. In this lecture, I will describe the evolution of his vision for broadcasting power through the earth and discuss the experiments he undertook in Colorado Springs (1899-1901) as well as at Wardenclyffe on Long Island (1901-1905). In doing so, I will talk about what it means to claim that someone invented “radio,” but more broadly, we will consider how individuals can shape scientific phenomena in different ways and wind up with significantly different technologies.

Hal Wallace: Decentralizing Power: Musings on the Development of Distributed Generation

In 1880 Thomas Edison and his Menlo Park team installed one of their new electric lighting systems onboard S.S. Columbia, and began putting another in the printing establishment of Hinds, Ketchum & Co. Simultaneously they planned the construction of a centralized generating station on New York’s Pearl Street that Edison believed would provide electricity more efficiently than stand-alone, “isolated” plants. The two concepts–central and isolated power–have coexisted since that era. During the first half of the 20th century the former became dominant while engineers found niches for the latter.

For various reasons during the second half of the last century, many people called into questions the rationale underlying the dominance of this system. Some pointed to the development of generating technologies purported to make isolated power plants more efficient (both technically and financially) than centralized power. A hybrid of the two, generically referred to as distributed generation or DG, has increasingly been discussed as a policy alternative to address many conditions / problems of the existing electric power system. The current interest in DG technologies makes this an opportune time to explore historical and policy questions about technological change in large infrastructures, the competing roles and strategies of interest groups, and the construction of differing definitions of the DG concept. This paper will not present research results, but will rather initiate a conversation about pertinent issues and perspectives that might be considered.

Fumio Arakawa: History of Power Systems Development in Japan

There is similarity and difference between history in general and history of engineering. Since the study of engineering is rather practical, the productivity of the study will be essentially estimated to meet with the needs of human life. This paper tries to find some keys for the innovation by way of historical study of engineering, suggesting “The Repeat Model.” One of effective ways to review the innovation is the model study, as it will provide us with the suggestion for innovative development of technology. Taking the case of power systems engineering development in Japan as an example, the author finds such perspective for the future as is given by the condition of deregulation, social needs, and contradiction.

Break 2:45 – 3:00


Jana M. Jilek: From Maxwell to Steinmetz: The Development of Electric Circuits Theories

The late nineteenth century was the time of birth and expansion of the electric power industry. During this time, the process of design of electrical systems and devices changed from an empirical approach of trial and error to using theoretical models. Maxwell’s highly mathematical theories of time variable electric and magnetic fields were not widely known by the practicing electricians of that time and were difficult to apply to practical problems. However, together with engineering graphical analysis used by civil and mechanical engineers, they became one of the building blocks from which engineering analysis of alternating current circuits was developed. The methods that we teach to electrical engineering students in introductory electric circuits courses were developed in stages from these two diverse intellectual backgrounds.

Kent Lundberg: Analog Computers and Non-Computing Analogies in the Electric Power Industry

From the mechanical computers of Vannevar Bush to the electronic systems of George Philbrick, analog computers were the workhorses of science and technology for nearly fifty years. In the electric power industry, a wide variety of analog machines were built and used at MIT, General Electric, and Westinghouse. The direct analog machines, such as the MIT/GE network analyzers and the Westinghouse Anacom, were basically scale models or dynamic analogies of the systems under study. The indirect analog computers, such as the MIT Differential Analyzer and the electronic analog computers that followed it, directly solved differential equations. This paper discusses the history, taxonomy, impact, and legacy of the analog computers and non-computing analogies in the electric power industry.

Julian Reitman: A Series of Short Film Clips from 1904 of the Westinghouse Companies

The role of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in the era before movies, radio, and television was both to inform and to entertain. The Westinghouse Companies expended considerable resources to inform the engineering world of their product lines and some efforts to entertain the general public. Westinghouse was the Fair’s electrical power provider, and their products were among the great variety of electrical machinery displayed in the Palace of Machinery. Westinghouse had recently gained control of Cooper-Hewitt, the manufacturer of mercury vapor lamps. With these lamps there was sufficient illumination to allow films to be made under artificial lighting. With this amount of lighting the Biograph Company cameraman, Billy Bitzer, made films providing a clear view as large electrical generators were assembled and the physical efforts expended by manual labor and the lack of safety features when handling hot metal. There were 10,000 workers in the factories including about 900 women. Employees are shown as they worked, and as they departed at noon on Saturday.



William Hederman: The Influence of Electric Technology on Policy and of Electric Policy on Technology

Electric power technology and public policy have been highly interrelated since the dawn of commercial electricity. This presentation will explore how technology has influenced public policy addressing electricity and how public policy in energy has influenced technology. This presentation will use illustrative examples of intended and unintended effects covering important technological developments such as large scale hydropower, nuclear power, industrial cogeneration, large scale dispatch of power grids, high efficiency generators, and others.

Frank A. Felder: The Role of Stakeholders in Designing Wholesale Electricity Markets: Comparison of New England, New York, and PJM

During the early 1990s, the U.S. embraced competition for the generation sector of the electric power industry. This transition was from an integrated, cost-of-service structure in which generation was owned for the most part by vertically integrated utilities to competitive wholesale markets. In the case of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States, the three power pools – NEPOOL, New York, and PJM – were transformed into wholesale electricity markets administered and operated by Independent System Operators (ISOs). Stakeholders were intimately involved in the design of these new markets. Despite a similar history and role as power pools, each of these three regions initially settled upon three different market designs with a pronounced difference between NEPOOL and the other two regions. Based upon interviews of key participants in these market developments, this paper traces the major steps in the design of these initial markets to understand the role of stakeholders and to evaluate how they contributed to the design process.

Hyungsoo Park: Historical Formation of Transmission Systems and Large-Scale Blackouts This paper explores the historical formation of transmission systems and dispatch control centers in relation to institutional environments in order to investigate social origins of large scale blackouts. Many analyses of large scale blackouts focus on technical issues, particularly weak interconnection of transmission systems. However, large scale blackouts are, in part, consequences of the fragmented performance of the related organizations and their control centers. In examining two cases - the 1965 Northeast blackout and the 1977 New York blackout - this paper explains that the reason for periodically repeated large scale blackouts is due, to a certain extent, to fragmented coordination of human performance between control areas. While transmission systems have evolved historically from small to interconnected large scales, the coordination between control-centers has not been fully developed because of the lack of centralization-decentralization process in organizing entire operation systems, and the absence of reliability of culture among control centers under the changing physical and institutional environments. Better coordination of performance among control centers can isolate initial, small scale power outages, thereby preventing large scale blackouts.

Travel to Glenmont 10:00 – 10:30

Tour of Glenmont 10:30 – 11:45

Travel back to NJIT 11:45 – 12:00

Lunch 12:00 – 1:00

FUEL CELLS 1:00 – 2:00

Eduardo I. Ortiz-Rivera: Understanding the History of Fuel Cells

Fuel cells are one of the enabling technologies for the future hydrogen economy. For the last 20 years applications for fuel cells have been as replacements for internal combustion engines, providing both stationary and portable power. But the history of fuel cells is much longer than 20 years, in fact, it is more than 150 years! This paper presents the development of the fuel cell through this long period, discussing the basic concepts and the applications for the six main types of fuel cells.

Matthew N. Eisler: Fueling Dreams of Grandeur: Fuel Cell Research and Development and the Pursuit of the Abundant Energy Machine, 1945-2000

The fuel cell presents one of the great enigmas in the history of technology. Despite over 50 years of concerted work since the Second World War, researchers have largely failed to deliver long-lived and affordable commercial fuel cells to the marketplace. During this period, expectations have tended to exceed the knowledge base, largely because definitions of "success" have varied according to context and application. Drawing from my doctoral dissertation, I argue that we should understand fuel cell research and development communities as central nodes of expectation generation. They have functioned as a nexus where the physical-material realities of fuel cell technology meet external factors, those political, economic and cultural pressures that create a "need" for a "miracle" power source. I argue that the economic exigencies and distinct material practices of these communities are important factors in producing expectations of technological progress, playing at least as much of a role in shaping the resultant artifacts as the requirements of actual and potential customers.

Break 2:00 – 2:15


James Delbourgo: Electricity Shocks the World: Enlightenment Contests over Global Electric Power

Scientific instruments played an important role in projects to exert metropolitan control over distant peripheries. Experimental machines were a means of exporting laboratory technique to discipline experience in the world “outside.” But, as with other philosophical apparatus, the truths yielded by electrical machines proved variable and unstable. As they moved from Europe to the Americas and beyond, the machines of enlightenment could inspire mistrust and provoke resistance to European authority. When eighteenth-century Americans became experimental demonstrators, the politics of enlightenment turned volatile. This was in no small part because electrical machines themselves were ambiguous in their effects: was the experience of bodily electrification they afforded one of discipline or indiscipline? Did such experience constitute participation in an orderly political cosmology uniting colonial Americans with metropolitan Britons, or did the electric fire’s shocks and sparks conjure new understandings of nature, society and religion that precipitated division? This paper examines electrical machines as engines both of unity and disunity in the eighteenth-century – the era when electricity first became a form of global power – as imagined agents of imperial integration, racial differentiation, and political separation in the Atlantic world. It ends with an unlikely machine that had lurked in the American garden all along: the electric eel. In attempting to handle the eel like an electric machine, experimenters engaged with the central tension at work in the global relation between electricity and empire: could a world of exotic natural phenomena be controlled as predictable effects through experimental discipline?

Giuliano Pancaldi: Interpreting the Early Age of Electricity

The paper will explore some interpretive issues raised by the period from the introduction of the first electric battery in 1800 to the Edison-dominated, Paris International Electrical Exhibition of 1881. Using William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) and Britain as examples, I will explore the interaction of science, technology, industry, and public culture at a time when the uses of electricity had not yet crystallized in the forms that seemed obvious to people of later generations. I will especially consider how it happened that – contrary to contemporary expectations – electric communications (the telegraph), rather than electric power, succeeded first in the attempt to turn electricity into a major, new industrial and cultural asset. Some of the premises that have led historians to treat science, technology, public culture, and business as independent factors in the shaping of the early age of electricity will be questioned. It will be argued that there is much to be learnt from treating these fields as all contributing to the slow emergence of the age of electricity.

Short break

Samir Saul: Recent Trends in French Historiography on Electricity

An important body of research on the history of electricity as a key aspect of meodernity has developed in France in the past quarter century. Work got underway in the early 1980s, mainly at the behest of economic historians specializing in the history of industry, railroads, and public works. Based on this collective activity, the Association pour l’histoire de l’électricité en France (AHEF) grew out of an effort to favor interaction and stimulate interest among graduate students. The AHEF organized several colloquia and sponsored the publication of monographic studies on electricity. In 1983, it began publishing a semestrial journal entitled Bulletin pour l’histoire de l’électricité, where articles by confirmed scholars and younger prospects disseminated the results of the latest research. The major project was a wide-ranging three-volume multi-authored synthesis of knowledge published in 1991, 1994, and 1996. By the end of the 1990s, the phase of research inaugurated twenty years earlier came to a close. In 2001, the AHEF changed its name to Fondation Électricité de France and the Bulletin pour l’histoire de l’électricité to Annales historiques de l’électricité. The outlook changed somewhat, with numbers becoming thematic. Publications on the history of electricity continue at a steady pace. The intent of this paper is to take stock of the work accomplished and make it better known outside its original French setting. Its aim is to identify the themes which attracted attention, the outcome of the research done and the areas remaining to be investigated.

Silvestra Mariniello: Electricity: the Forgotten Fairy

This paper explores the influence of electricity on modern culture. In the first part it argues that the discovery and the introduction of electricity into the physical, social and cultural world generated as important changes as those produced by the invention of alphabetical writing in the antiquity and by printing at the beginning of Western Modernity. In the second part it questions the oblivion of which electricity has been the object. If oblivion is an essential feature of any technology that in order to work has to make its technological nature forgotten as well as the network in which it inscribes itself, this seems particularly true of electricity. I will in particular look at the case of the so called cybernetic revolution to inquire why it is easier to recognize the changes brought by electronics than to acknowledge the cultural power of electricity.

Susan Barnes: Rural Electrification Administration: A Study of Lester Beall Posters, 1937-1941

Lester Beall's posters to help electrify rural area in the United States helped to foster the formation of electrical cooperatives in rural areas. These posters depict the wonder of electricity and the benefits of using this technology. Of particular interest, is the impact of electricity on the role of the women in rural areas. Placed within the context of other forms of electrical advertising and promotion, this study examines the rhetorical messages communicated through a series of posters created by graphic designer Lester Beall for the Rural Electrification Administration. The purpose of these posters was to communicate the benefits of electricity and the visual and verbal rhetoric was designed to convince rural Americans to adopt electrical technologies. In addition to the importance of these posters in the history of electrical power in the United States, Beall's posters set the stage for a new era of graphic design in the United States. Beall's work is considered historically significant in the world of art as well as the history of electricity in the United States.



Chris Hunter: Documenting the Curtis Turbine

This paper will explore the development of early power generation, focusing on the development of the Curtis Turbine at General Electric and its impact on utilities, power engineering, and consumer use of electricity. The Curtis turbine revolutionized power engineering. GE produced the turbine at the insistence of Chicago Edison president Samuel Insull, in spite of doubt within the electrical industry and even GE. Despite the great increase in efficiency in the 5000 kW turbine, new developments (turbine-generators with 12,000 kW output) made it obsolete, and Insull returned the turbine to GE in 1909 as a “Monument to Courage,” commemorating the risk that GE and its engineers undertook in agreeing to produce the turbine. GE adapted the vertical design to a horizontal design by 1910. The paper will utilize archival materials from the Schenectady Museum’s General Electric Collections and will include a brief overview of the resources available at the Museum, including the GE Photograph Collection, GE Historical File, and collections from a variety of electrical engineers.

Eiju Matsumoto: Weston was the Icon of Meters in Japan

Weston Electrical Instrument Corporation was founded in 1888 and began to manufacture direct-current portable instruments. In those days it was the beginning of the electricity business in Japan, and IEEJ was also organized in the same year. Many Weston meters were exported to Japan, and government institutions as well as universities made use of them. Instruments manufacturers in Japan were established around 1900, and they began to manufacture similar instruments learned from Weston's meters. It took a while before they made meters which had equivalent characteristics as Weston's; in addition, users did not acknowledge that domestic meters attained as good performance as Weston's for long time. This is to say, Weston's instruments were the icon of instruments, and users insisted strongly on Weston's superiority. The following meters were their specialties: Laboratory Standard Instrument (0.1%), Portable Instrument (0.25%), Photographic Exposure Meter. These conditions were kept strong until around 1950, after the end of the second world war. However after the introduction of digital instruments, the situation changed a lot. Although the Weston Corporation had excellent A/D converters, such as one having dual slope, it could not overcome the competition in the meter business.

Ed Owen: Fiftieth Anniversary of Modern Power Electronics: The Silicon Controlled Rectifier

In late July 1957, researchers at General Electric developed the first Silicon Controlled Rectifier or SCR. It followed by 10-years development of the transistor by Bell Labs. The transistor was the first of many modern solid-state electronic devices; which in due course leads to formation of "Silicon Valley" in California. The transistor was a device used in signal electronics applications since it was capable of controlling only small amounts of electric power (milliwatts). Meanwhile the SCR was capable of controlling much large amounts of power (Kilowatts). The SCR was developed by a very small group of researchers working on an even smaller budget, a modest beginning. From such humble beginnings, the modern era of power electronics has grown into a powerful giant of enormous proportions. Power electronics have profoundly affected the lives of most citizens living in the modern industrialized world. At the time of its birth, the future for the SCR was severely underestimated by most people and it took several years to show its true potential as an agent for change. In the beginning even its very name was controversial; today most people refer to it simply as the Thyristor. This paper examines these circumstances and the people who brought them about.

Sture Eriksson: The Swedish Development of Turbogenerators with Directly Water-Cooled Rotors

The Swedish electric power production had been based on hydropower until the 1960s, when the development of nuclear power plants started. The Swedish manufacturer of heavy electrical equipment, Asea then faced a challenge of developing and manufacturing much larger turbogenerators than the company had experience with. Asea decided to acquire a license for the turbines but to develop new generators in-house and to choose a completely water-cooled concept, i.e. even the two-pole rotors should be directly water-cooled. The strategic decisions to refrain from taking a license, and to develop a very advanced turbogenerator concept, followed a tradition that Asea had adopted also for large salient pole machines. Companies in Sweden – and even one a Finland – ordered complete nuclear plants or turbine/generator units from Asea, including generators of this unproven technology. Thus the world’s most comprehensive program of two-pole turbogenerators was implemented in Sweden during the 1970s. The company had to fight against both technical and commercial difficulties until these eventually were overcome. Asea changed profile as generator manufacturer from being a leading company for hydropower generators to become respected also in case of large turbogenerators. These directly water-cooled generators have had excellent operation records from the beginning of the 1980s and have, since then, generated around 30 percent of Sweden’s electrical power. The global generator industry has been subject to a radical change during the last two decades and that has also affected the Swedish manufacturer. However, it is still dealing with directly water-cooled turbogenerators, but is obviously rather alone in this respect. The concept has several advantages but has difficulties in competing with more common, well-established technologies.

Break 10:30 – 10:50


Chair: Carl Sulzberger, IEEE Life Member

Mischa Schwartz: The Early History of Carrier-Wave Telephony over Power Lines

Power-line communications has seen a strong revival of interest in the past few years. The idea of using power lines to convey information dates back to circa 1900, with transmission of metering information the first such application. Telegraphy over power lines was proposed shortly thereafter. In this paper, we focus on the early history of the use of power lines for telephony, i.e., to convey voice signals, dating back to 1918 and continuing until 1930. The technology used to transmit voice signals over high-voltage power lines at the time was variously called “wired wireless”, carrier-current telephony or communications, guided-wave telephony, wired radio, and power-line telephony, among other terms. This technology, based on the pioneering 1910 invention by the then-Major George Squier of the US Army Signal Corps of “wired wireless” transmission of multiple voice signals over telephone lines, uses multiple carrier frequencies to transmit the signals independently, just as in AM radio. Various power companies world-wide, realizing the potential of carrier-current technology to provide more reliable communications when applied to power-line transmission, began to test and adopt the technology soon thereafter. Interest by power companies was very strong. By 1924, 43 systems were in operation in the United States, while by 1928 this number had grown to close to 300. Similar intense interest was displayed by power companies in France, Germany, and other European countries.

Gil Cooke: The Slot in the Road: Manhattan's Underground Electric Trolley System

The presentation will describe the system developed by the Metropolitan Street Railway Company for operating its passenger traffic by electricity on surface roads of New York City. The company selected the open-slot conduit design, which used 600 volt DC traction power but not from an overhead wire. In this case, traction power to streetcars was supplied by double conductors located between the tracks a short depth below the surface of the street. The initial 1895 Harlem trials were a complete success, and following improvements to the design, the conduit was adopted system wide beginning in 1896. Horses began to disappear from the streets of Manhattan. The presentation will cover the early system development during the period 1894 to 1907 including the traction power supply, namely the 96th Street Power Station, and the company’s extensive AC and DC distribution. Overall, the conduit system was a landmark electrical engineering project: privately financed, innovative, and long-lived. It provided transportation to New Yorkers before the subway was available, and the design of the conduit was adopted by transit companies in Washington DC and London. The last electric streetcar in downtown Manhattan was removed from service in 1936.

Donald W. Zipse: Operating a Direct Current Generating Station Similar to Edison’s

This paper details the day-to-day operation of isolated 130-volt direct-current generators that supplied the electricity to a 250-acre campus with about 22 buildings. The school was built in the late 1880s, and the equipment dates back to the start of the 20th century. Some of the episodes recounted are losing control of a generator and destroying the residual magnetism, allowing the water level to get too high in a hand-fired coal boiler, and mixing AC and DC in an open-knife distribution switchboard in order to keep the school operating.


Paul Israel: Not Just the Electric Light: Edison and the Creation of the Electrical Industry

Thomas Edison is usually referred to as the inventor of the electric light. But many inventors had exhibited working incandescent electric lights before Edison began working on this technology. Why then is Edison is remembered as the inventor. The answer is that the electric light was only one of several related inventions necessary for a commercial system of electric lighting. Furthermore, Edison not only designed the first system for producing light and power but also established the necessary manufacturing, installation, and operating companies to commercialize his system. With the electric light Edison was more than just an inventor, he was a true innovator whose work was crucial to the birth of the electrical industry.

2007 IEEE Conference on the History of Electric Power Program Committee