Can you imagine if we were still walking around at night using candles to light our way, or heating our homes only by fire? Sure, it’s romantic and nostalgic to do that once in a while, but at the end of the day, society would look extremely different without the use of electricity.
Nikola Tesla was one of the geniuses who played an integral role in creating modern electricity, so you have him along with many other scientists to thank! Tesla worked with Edison on electromagnetism, played a hand in inventing the radio, and is well-known for his work with alternating current (AC), AC motors, and polyphase distribution system. In fact, Tesla and industrialist George Westinghouse developed the first hydroelectric power plant using Niagara Falls.
The first hydroelectric power plant at Niagara Falls
If you’ve never been to Niagara Falls, it’s quite a sight to see. The CE team lives in Ontario, so we’ve had the pleasure of seeing it up close, and it’s pretty miraculous. However, it’s arguably even more astounding that Nikola Tesla had the idea of utilizing the power from this magnificent waterfall to generate electricity in the first place.
The power generated by the Falls can be done through a process called hydroelectricity. Hydroelectricity refers to the generation of electrical power through the use of the gravitational force caused by falling or flowing water. In this case, the source of the flowing or falling water is Niagara Falls.
This wasn’t exactly a random thought for Tesla either, as he had always dreamed of generating energy by harnessing the power from the Falls. It wasn’t until 1893 that his dream became a reality when Westinghouse was awarded the contract to develop the plant. This wasn’t exactly a small dream either, as Tesla was a supporter of alternating current (AC) as opposed to direct current (DC), which was what society was leaning towards using at the time.
In fact, there were proposals submitted for this power project to use DC, including one backed by Thomas Edison. It’s a good thing that the Niagara Falls Commission agreed to allow Tesla to use AC because it’s far more powerful and safer to transfer over longer distances, as AC is what we use now to power entire cities (source).
This project was not only time consuming, but it was expensive, and interestingly enough, some of the investors were among the elite members of society including the Rothschilds and J.P. Morgan. It wasn’t actually until November of 1896 that the first sign of power reached Buffalo, New York.
The Niagara Falls Gazette reported, “The turning of a switch in the big powerhouse at Niagara completed a circuit which caused the Niagara River to flow uphill” (source).
Soon after, the first one thousand horsepower of electricity surging to Buffalo was acclaimed by the railway, and then demand surged among local residents. Within a few years, the number of generators at Niagara Falls multiplied and power lines were all over New York City, creating the abundance of lights and power the city is now well-known for today. The birth of the Niagara Falls hydroelectric power plant represented the birth of modern cities; it allowed us to implement an abundance of street lights, public transportation, and more.
During the Niagara Falls Opening Ceremony of the hydroelectric power station, Nikola Tesla stated:
“We have many a monument of past ages; we have the palaces and pyramids, the temples of the Greek and the cathedrals of Christendom. In them is exemplified the power of men, the greatness of nations, the love of art and religious devotion. But the monument at Niagara has something of its own, more in accord with our present thoughts and tendencies. It is a monument worthy of our scientific age, a true monument of enlightenment and of peace. It signifies the subjugation of natural forces to the service of man, the discontinuance of barbarous methods, the relieving of millions from want and suffering.”
Photos from the Original Hydroelectric Power Plant
The photo below is of the first hydroelectric power plant developed by Tesla and Westinghouse.
Currently, the only building that’s still in tact is the National Land Mark Site, as shown below.
Here’s a more recent photo of the building, which was taken in 2006. The building is considered a National Landmark; however, there’s been some push to turn it into a museum!
The following photo was taken in 1896 inside of one of the buildings at the Falls power plant, Adam’s power station, with three Tesla AC generators.
The next image was taken inside of another building at Niagara Falls, Edward Dean Adams power station, with a ten 5,000-horsepower Tesla/Westinghouse AC generator.
The following image was taken in the interior of Power House No. 1 of the Niagara Falls Power Company, which was the first ever hydroelectric power plant in Niagara Falls.
The final image is actually of a letter addressed to Nikola Tesla from the President of the Niagara Falls Power Company on his 75th birthday. The letter depicts the appreciation the company had for his dedication and valour in creating the world’s first hydroelectric power plant. It’s hard not to have adoration for Tesla when reading the letter, as it’s clear that he had a strong love for the Falls and science and by combining them, he made history.
Nikola Tesla’s innovation in Niagara Falls is a lesson for us all to take risks and have more faith in our endeavours and our intuition. He showed us that there truly is magic in nature and that we don’t have to destroy the environment in order to access energy. It’s strange to think that even 100 years later, society is still struggling to accept many of the concepts Tesla discussed! He truly was a man who was ahead of his time, and that remains true to this day.
Source of photos: http://www.teslasociety.com/exhibition.htm
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