Early Electrification of Buffalo: Adams Station - Electric Development
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Revision as of 13:41, 13 November 2013
This article is Part 5 of a 14 part series.
It is interesting that in late 1892 the turbines were ordered four months before all the proposals were received for generators for local lighting and power. This was the era of the ‘Battle of the Currents’ with Edison as the leading proponent of direct current and with Westinghouse and others promoting alternating current. When the first execution by electricity took place in 1890 in New York State’s Auburn Prison, an ac electric chair was used. Dc proponents said the condemned murderer had been “Westinghoused.”i
The opportunity for a large scale demonstration of the alternating current system to dispel fears about the system’s high voltages and display its versatility came in the spring of 1892 when bids were taken to light the grounds of the Columbian Exposition to be held in Chicago in 1893 [Fig. 5.1]. Westinghouse astounded everyone by bidding about one-third of the bid submitted by the recently formed General Electric Company. GE held the Edison incandescent lamp patents, a seeming crippling handicap.
The Exhibition used more electricity than the whole City of Chicago.
The Westinghouse polyphase exhibit was a big attraction when the Columbian Exhibition opened in the spring of 1893. Wooden models of the hydraulic turbines and governors under construction for Niagara Falls were also exhibited.iv
Complications of the electrical design delayed awarding a contract for the generators. Transportation costs, import duties and patent questions removed the foreign manufacturers from competition.vi The generator designs submitted in March 1893 by Westinghouse and General Electric did not fulfill the conditions imposed by the turbine designers for angular momentum and limited weight.
Later in October revised proposals were received from Westinghouse and General Electric. Changes had to be made in the Forbes design. A 20,000-volt oil-cooled armature was not practical.x On October 26 a contract was placed with Westinghouse for three 5000-hp, 25-Hz, 2200 volt, two-phase, four-wire generators.
The first turbo-generator was successfully tested and operated in April 1895 [Fig 12].xiii The tall gentleman, No. 7, is John Jacob Astor and No. 8 is Edward Dean Adams, President. Schallenberger of Westinghouse designed a new type of switchboard indicating and integrating meters. On August 26, two-phase four-wire 2200 volts was first delivered commercially one-half mile to the Pittsburgh Reduction Company for reducing aluminum ore using the Hall process.xiv This company became ALCOA, the Aluminum Company of America. The Carborundum Company, maker of silicon carbide abrasives, was another early customer.
The use of low cost Niagara power enabled these companies, and other soon to follow metallurgical and chemical companies, to greatly reduce the cost of their products. Aluminum is a classic example.
i. Adams, Niagara Power, 2:220. “dc distribution limits,” 76. Gardner Dales, “The Story of Nikola Tesla: The War of the Currents,” Tales from Gardner Dales (Western Division Historian, Niagara Mohawk Electric Company, n.d., photocopy), 17-22.
ii. “dc distribution limits,” 76. “Engineering the Electric Century: Polyphase ac systems come of age at the Columbian Exposition and Niagara Falls,” Electrical World, July 15, 1973: 30. Adams, Niagara Power, 2:193. Lewis B. Stillwell, “The Electric Transmission of Power from Niagara Falls,” Transactions of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, 18, (1901): 457.
iii. George D. Shepardson, Electrical Catechism: An Introductory Treatise on Electricity and its Uses, 2d. ed., (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1908), 387-390. “Polyphase ac systems,” 30.
iv. Adams, Niagara Power, 2:435.
v. Ibid., 74, 182, 194, 233.
vi. Ibid., 227.
vii. Ibid., 233, 419.
viii. Ibid., 235.
ix. Ibid., 236.
x. Ibid., 411-412.
xi. Ibid., 223-246.
xii. Ibid., 417.
xiii. Ibid., 39.
xiv. Ibid., 39.
xv. Ibid., 46.
xvi. World Book Encyclopedia, 1971 ed., s.v. “aluminum.”
xvii. Author’s calculation based on Ralph D. Mershon, “The Transmission Plant of the Niagara, Lockport and Ontario Power Company,” Transactions of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, 26, Part II, (1907): 1277. Tower Department, Transmission Towers (Pittsburgh, PA: American Bridge Company, 1925), 171.
xviii. Adams, Niagara Power, 2:39.
xix. Ibid., 247.