History of Electrification:
Birth of our Power Grid
& Transmission Sites:
AC and HVDC
grid as we know it began with isolated power generation systems across
the world starting in the 1870s. The growth and unification of the
systems is what we term as "Electrification of our World".
Power generation and transmission over distance is the focus of this
page so we will highlight some of the early important systems.
The Edison Tech
Center is working to tell the story of electrification and all
the great engineers that made our utility system possible. There
are videos on Youtube as well as several web pages on the subject.
Mary Ann type early DC dynamo created and sold by Thomas Edison.
power first saw commercial use in the 1870s. DC systems dominated
from the 1870s-1891. The 1891 Electro-Technical Exposition in
Frankfurt marked the end of the DC era.
DC power systems
were popular in the 1870's and 1880s. Small systems were sold
to factories around the world, both in urban areas, and remote
undeveloped areas for industrial/mining use. Thomas Edison,
Charles Brush, and Werner von Siemens lead the largest
efforts to electrify the world. DC systems powered factories
and small downtown areas, but did not reach 95% of
residents. It became clear that to make real the dream of
to supplying whole cities with electric power you would need
to generate the power in one place (like a large river with
great hydo-power potential) and transmit it to the city or
factory. This was done by several major advancements:
HVDC Power - This was the first
method of transmitting electric power over distance. HVDC
is the oldest and newest method of distance transmission,
today it has reemerged in an advanced form to possibly replace
major AC high-voltage routes.
Current - Developed first in France, Italy and Germany,
it quickly proved to be the best method for harnessing electric
power. Understanding and building AC systems required more
advanced mathematics and physics than DC systems. This caused
a 10 year delay in AC commercial system development vs. DC.
Three Phase Power -
Three phase AC power was first developed in Germany by August
Haselwander in 1887 and made its major world debut in 1891
at the Lauffen-Frankfurt demonstration [International Electro-Technical
Exhibition] (built by Dolivo-Dobrowolsky and Oskar von Miller).
Mill Creek 1 in California proved to be the first US commercial
use of three phase power. Charles
P. Steinmetz improved three phase and fully explained
the concept for the first time using mathematics.
of the first three phase AC generators in the world. This one
was created for the Electrical Exposition in Frankfurt,Germany
Dynamo - a device that generates electric power in the
form of direct current
Generator - a device that produces electric power in
the form of alternating current
Alternator - another name for a generator but can also be
used to describe higher frequency AC used in radio waves
Transformer - a device
that uses inductive coils to control alternating current. It
may increase or decrease voltage. High voltage is necessary
to send electric power any distance.
There is an abundance
of web sites about AC power and hydro power which inaccurately
describe a particular site or person as being "the first"
We actively improve our page to reflect an accurate international
perspective. Please give us feedback
if you see inaccuracy AND have a source as proof.
who like this topic on our Facebook page:
of a maiden providing electric power from a distance.
International Electrical Exhibition Frankfurt 1891
hydropower and power transmission sites
Dolgeville Dynamo Dolgeville
Mill, Dolgeville, NY, USA. 1879
possibly the earliest hydropower in the US? more research
is needed. This is not AC but represents a start to hydro
electric power in North America.
Niagara Falls, New York -A small dynamo supplied
a few stores in in Niagara Falls with power for lighting.
AC power came to this area 14 years later.
Appleton Wisconsin, US DC power, 12.5 kW. Some
claim this to be the first hydroelectric station in the world,
this is easily disproved, however it was the first Edison
hydroelectric station. It powered Van Depoele's early electric
trolleys later in 1886.
Miesbach to Munich, Germany- longest DC transmission to
this date: 1400
volts 57 km distance built by Marcel Deprez.
length: 57 km (37 miles)
Lanzo Torinese to Turino, Italy- 2000 volt 3 phase
experimental transmission line. This information is
from the Deutsches Museum in Munich and must be confirmed.
length: 40 km (25 miles)
Great Barrington, Massachusetts The first
AC power distribution system using transformers is
built in the small city of Great Barrington. It used a Siemens
generator and Edison's incandescent lights. Stanley and Z.B.D.
had used the transformer in separate experimental systems
in 1885, Great Barrington was the first full-scale installation.
length: ~1500 ft (455 meters)
Oregon City Falls, Oregon, USA Longest
DC transmission of power in North America is established south
of Portland at Station A.
length 14 miles (DC
Oregon City Falls, Oregon, USA Experimental,
2 phase AC generators installed by Westinghouse at
Powerhouse A, it sent power to Portland. It was 5 years later
before regular commercial AC power was established in Powerhouse
length 14 miles (AC power)
Telluride Colorado- Ames Hydroelectric Plant:
3000V, 133 Hz, single phase. It sent power to mining operations
in the mountains near Telluride. It was a Westinghouse experimental
Transmission length: 2.5 miles
is under construction
Lauffen-Frankfurt Germany - A
MAJOR STEP FORWARD: The first long-distance and
3-phase alternating current demonstration. This proved that
three phase power worked the best for a power grid. This project
was developed by Oskar von Miller and engineered by the founder
of 3 phase AC power Mikhail Dolivo-Dobrovolsky.
Transmission length 175 km (109 miles)
website is under construction
Redlands Mill Creek 1 powerhouse Redlands,
The first 3-phase AC commercial power plant in the world.
This used C.P.
Steinmetz's improved 3-phase system.
line length: 7 miles
Hellsjon - Grangesberg, Sweden: developed
by Ernst Danielson, he also was involved in the Mill Creek
Plant at Redlands, California in the same year.
line length: 10 km
Pelzer Hydroelectric Plant, South Carolina This
plant provided AC 3-phase power to the Pelzer Manufacturing
Plant. 3300 V (no transformers were used on transmission)
Transmission line length: 2.75 miles
Folsom Powerhouse, Folsom California Built
near a reservoir that catches water from the Sierra Nevada
outside of Sacramento.
Transmission line length: 22 miles
*The Folsom Prison opened a small AC powerhouse in 1893
as part of the same hydro system
Willamette Falls, Oregon, USA.
Powerhouse B is built on the Willamette River and supplies
commercial AC power to Portland 14 miles away.
line length: 14 miles
Falls AC Power Plants Westinghouse won the
contract to build this power plant. GE won the contract for
power transmission to Buffalo. The opening of the power plants
was trumpeted in the international press more than any other
hydro plant before, or possibly since. For this reason it
is mistakenly believed to be the first. Nonetheless it was
the largest hydro power plant till that date.
Transmission line length: 25 miles
Mechanicville Power Station, Mechanicville,
New York Transmission line length: 17
power station was built as an experiment of C.P. Steinmetz
and commercial operation.
Also the site of Albert W. Hull's HVDC experiments in 1932
Power Station Schaghticoke, NY
of an experimental monocyclic power transmission 1908. This
was a project by AC Pioneer Charles.
1900 the number of power stations exploded. All across the
world from Argentina to Singapore AC 3 phase power became
established as the best way to supply populations with electric
list will become more refined over time. We are open to suggestions
and will change our site to reflect the most accuracy as possible.
Please see our Contact page and
send us a link to the fact source if you find inaccuracies.
of early power transmission in Europe and North America
We will expand the number
of historical sites over time.
For a list of sources see each of the individual pages above.
Click on the sites above and they will take you to a source.
The Hawkins Electrical Guide. 1915
The General Electric Story. Hall of History Publications. 2000
Commercial entities must pay for use of photos/graphics/videos in their
No one commercial or public is allow to alter Edison Tech Center photos/graphics/videos.
Educational Use: Students and teachers may use photos and videos for
school. Graphics and photos must retain the Edison Tech Center watermark
or captions and remain unmanipulated except for sizing.
- Videos: We do not email, FTP, or send videos/graphics to anyone
except in DVD form. Payment is needed for this service. See our donate
page for pricing, and our catalogue
for a listing of videos on DVD.
Professional video production companies may get videos in data form
with signed license agreements and payment at commercial rates.
- About Us - Resources
- Videos - Engineering
Hall of Fame - Donate - Contact