Early Electrification Of Buffalo: Niagara Falls Hydraulic Development - Adams Station
This article is Part 4 of a 14 part series.‘Fast tracking’ a building where the foundation is completed before the design of the upper floors is complete is a common current practice. This principle was applied to construction of the Adams Station. Because a tailrace tunnel was common to any project, a contract was awarded in September 1890. Construction of the 1-1/4 mile long tunnel
By July 1891 plans had reached the following stage:i
2. Local distribution of power by direct current of electricity.
3. Transmission of power to Buffalo by compressed air.
The inlet canal was started in August 1891 and completed in October 1892 [Figure 4.5].
The state of the art of electric power transmission in the early 1890’s was as follows:iii
1. 1890 - Willamette Falls to Portland, Oregon - 4,000 volts ac single-phase 12 miles for lighting.
2. 1891 - Telluride, Colorado - 3,000 volts ac single-phase three miles supplying a 100-hp synchronous motor for operating an ore crushing plant.
3. 1891 - Lauffen to Frankfurt, Germany - Experimental 30,000 volt three-phase line 108 miles for 300 hp for the Frankfort Exposition. Overall efficiency 77 percent.
In early autumn of 1891 it became evident that alternating current could be safely and economically controlled for the transmission of power more than five times the distance from Niagara to Buffalo. From this period, all serious attention was concentrated upon electrical installations; generators, transformers, transmission lines, motors, and power and light distribution.iv
In December 1891 an invitation to submit proposals for generation of electrical energy for local lighting and power purposes was sent to three United States and three Swiss electrical equipment designers and manufacturers. The invitation did not mention direct current, alternating current or voltage. It took a year until all proposals were received.v
In 1892 Professor George Forbes, an electrical engineer from England, was hired as a consultant [Fig. 4.7]. He had submitted the polyphase alternating current electrical proposal to the International Niagara Commission contest.vi Horsepower and speed were determined by consultation with the hydraulic turbine and electrical equipment manufacturers.vii The contemplation of the use of electricity from hydraulic units of 5000 hp in a plant, which would ultimately aggregate 100,000 hp, required imagination, optimism and confidence. 100,000 hp approximated the output of all the electric lighting stations in the United States.viii
In July 1892 a contract was awarded to Faesch & Piccard of Geneva, Switzerland for complete working drawings of a 5000-hp 250-revolutions-per-minute hydraulic turbine including the governor.ix The turbines far exceeded in power and speed any then in existence.x Transportation costs and import duties made domestic manufacture economical.xi In November 1892 a contract was awarded to I. P. Morris of Philadelphia for two turbines. A third was added in 1893.xii The turbines were double runner Fourneyron type with outward discharge directly into the wheel
The New York City architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White was engaged to design the limestone powerhouse [Fig. 4.10].xvi
i. Adams, Niagara Power, 1:164, 2:106.
ii. Adams, Niagara Power, 2:38, 48.
iii. Ibid., 174, 179. “Engineering the Electric Century: Transmission by ac gives impetus to hydro,” Electrical World, September 15, 1973: 72.
iv. Adams, Niagara Power, 2:106, 222.
v. Ibid., 223.
vi. Ibid., 356.
vii. Ibid., 85.
viii. Ibid., 181.
ix. Ibid., 433.
x. Ibid., 85.
xi. Ibid., 104.
xii. Ibid., 113.
xiii. Ibid., 439.
xiv. Ibid., 107.
xv. Ibid., 113.
xvi. Ibid., 66.