Power Plant 1897
The world's oldest 3 phase power plant still in operation Built by by C. P. Steinmetz,
it was in the first generation of 3-phase AC power plants in the world
still run today at 40 Hz. In the 1890s there was not standard in frequency,
25, 40, and 60 Hz facilities existed.
Dazzling Feat! -
Over 1000 tourists each day came to view the construction of the power
station in 1897
had been used long before electricity, so it came natural to early
inventors to attach DC generators to a water wheels in the 1870s.
The main problem was that until the 3-phase AC generator, there
was no way to transmit power a long distance (to downtown areas
in cities for example). General Electric built the first 3-phase
AC power plant in the Western Hemisphere
in 1893 at Redlands, California. The same year another installation
in Columbia Mills, South Carolina (The Pelzer Plant) provided the
first full scale 3 phase electrification of a textile mill. Engineers
Elihu Thomson and Steinmetz worked together to develop the world's
first large 3 phase AC generators at Thomson-Houston and General
Electric. Westinghouse independently pursued the 2 phase 25 Hz system
which had it's roots in work by Siemens, Ferranti and others. In
the end 3 phase proved to
be the best system. Since power plants were very expensive to
build, they were in places with economic interest. Mechanicville
was important due to it's proximity to the General Electric plant
in Schenectady and textile mills in Cohoes/Albany.
this Power Generation Site:
Oldest 3-phase AC hydro-power plant in continuous service,
this site was used for experiments by AC pioneer Charles
Steinmetz and later Albert W. Hull
Frequency: 40 cycle
Three-Phase, Alternating Current Power Transmission Length: 19 miles Power system built by: General Electric Notable Engineers:C.
P. Steinmetz, William
Stanley, Elihu Thomson Maximum Power Output: 5250 kW
Below: Video of the Mechanicville
economic industrial machine required enormous amounts of power,
so the first place to look for hydropower was the Mohawk River.
The Mohawk had large season variations and was insufficient. Mechanicville
however is located on the powerful Hudson River about 19 miles away
to the east. It is supplied year round by rain/snowfall in the Adirondack
Mountains. The map below is from 1917 showing the Mechanic-Schenectady
line with the extension to the Schaghticoke power station on the
Hoosic River (This section was built later).
Course of the Schaghticoke-Schenectady
transmission line through Mechanicville of the Schenectady
Power Co. This Transmission line carries practically the entire
output of the Schaghticoke power house to Schenectady, N.Y.,
a distance of approximately 21 miles. The line consists of
two separate three phase 40 cycle, 32,000 volt circuits, each
of 6,000 kw. normal capacity. These circuits start from the
opposite ends of the power house, and, after crossing the
Hossic River, are transferred by means of two terminal towers
to a single line of transmission towers. The two circuits
are carried on these on opposite ends of the cross arms, the
three phases being superimposed. The power house ends of the
line are held by six short quadrangular steel lattice work
anchor poles with their bases firmly embedded in concrete,
the cables being dead ended by General Electric disc strain
insulators. This equipment is together with the lightning
arrestor horn gaps and the heavy line outlet insulators mounted
on the roof of the powerhouse.While each circuit carries only
6,000 kW under normal conditions, either is capable of carrying
the entire output of the station; in this case, however, the
line losses are necessarily augmented. This feature prevents
any interruption of the service from the failure of one of
the circuits. There are altogether 197 transmission towers,
comprising several distinct types.
- Hawking Electrical Guide
Switchgear from 1897s on a slate panel mixed with newer equipment
on marble panels
one year before Steinmetz and Thomson had worked on the system at
Folsom, CA. The Folsom Powerhouse supplied
Sacramento with power 22 miles away. This was the longest power
transmission in North America at the time. This installation proved
that the same system type could be installed in upstate New York.
consistent large volume of water was dammed just south of the city
of Mechanicville and work began after 1895. The projected of this
amazing massive project attracted crowds of 1000 each day. Electricity
was a strange and magical concept at the time, and this became a
completion the powerhouse provided 7000 horsepower each day to Schenectady
where it could be used by ALCO (American Locomotive Company) and
electromagnet on the armature exposed while the unit is under service,
normally there would be many next to it, as well as electromagnets
on the stator. All of the electromagnets on the stator side in this
photo have been removed.
notice the round holes which at one time held outlet bushings for the
high tension lines. (These are not to be mistaken for air intakes on
Hydroelectric Station transmitted 7000 horsepower each day to Schenectady
in the 1890's.
are seven generators which provide 750 kW of power each.
may visit the site as a tourist along with the adjacent DC power station
at the lock. The power station is listed on the National Register
for Historic Places since 1989.
Albert W. Hull's HVDC Experiment in Mechanicville
GE Pioneer Albert W. Hull set up a DC transmission line with Schenectady.
W. Hull is known for his invention of the magnetron (used in Radar,
Microwave Oven, Etc.) but he also worked on high voltage DC power transmission.
He set up a HVDC line from Mechanicville to Schenectady in 1932. GE
tested mercury-vapor valves and a 12 kV DC transmission line which also
converted 40 Hz to the modern 60 Hz system.
the Thyratron inverter, which is an ancestor of the silicon controlled
rectifier used in modern HVDC systems world wide.
Power and HVDC, 1932
first system was tested at the plant in Schenectady:
"Three phase power at 550 V was converted into constant current
by means of a three-phase version of the Steinmetz monocyclic network.
This power was then stepped up and rectified to feed a 15,000 V artificial
transmission line operating at a current of 10 A, allowing a transfer
of to 150 kW of power. At the receiving end of this artificial line,
a constant current Thyratron tube inverter was used to convert back
to three-phase power. This was then stepped down and fed through a second
monocyclic network. The 550V three-phase Schenectady shop power system
served as a load for this experimental system." - Thomas Block,
the system was tried as they built a HVDC transmission line from the
hydro station at Mechanicville to Schenectady in 1936. (17 miles) The
power was generated, then stepped up to 15 kV to ground, and the line
was able to handle up to 5 MW.
Ernst Alexanderson lent some of his
equipment for use in the building of the line. The Mechanicville-Schenectady
HVDC line was used periodically for tests. GE did not end up going into
the HVDC business after this test line. The line was torn down in the
Multi-phase power transmission research continued over the years.
Twelve-phase was the most ever created and that research was done
Oliver Winn at General Electric. The 12-phase system worked well
when converted to DC, it made a smooth transition.
information was gathered by Rick Delair
and Steve Normandin of the Edison
Hawkins Electrical Guide #5 Theo
Audel and Co. 1917 Harnessing the Hudson by Dr. Paul Loatman The General Electric Story by the Hall of Electrical History Men and Volts by John Hammond History of High Voltage Direct Current Transmission by Owen
Peake Monocyclic Power, A Novel but Short-Lived Power Distribution System
by Thomas Block, IEEE
Marty Pickands, New York State Museum
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