is perhaps the most famous historical power station in the world.
The current fame is due to the long lasting effects of Westinghouse
publicity machine, the fact that it is located at "the" Niagara
Falls, and the connection to the internet demagoguery surrounding Nikola
Edward Dean Adams Power Station built in 1895 was not the first
hydro power station at Niagara, but it goes down in history as being
the largest hydro electric power generation site of it's era. Also:
we have listed other smaller power plants at Niagara which predated
the "Adams" on our timeline lower on this page.
Adam's site consisted of several buildings just southeast of Niagara
Falls itself. The generators were the showpiece of Westinghouse's
engineering capabilities. The power transmission contract was won
by General Electric which had already done a few other projects of similar
transmission distance. Power was sent 25 miles to the booming industrial
city of Buffalo, New York. The Adams power station was accompanied by
an enormous worldwide publicity campaign. This long lasting publicity
is part of the reason why many falsely believe the Niagara Falls power
plant was the first AC hydro power plant. AC hydro electric power goes
back to the 1870s in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Adams Power
Station stands as a monument to the first large scale application
of AC power in North America.
The transformer house. The last remaining building from the Adams Power
Station. The main powerhouse was demolished in 1961.
before most of it was demolished. The transformer house is seen center-left.
this Power Generation Site:
features: Largest power station ever built until 1895. Attracted
national attention due to the enormous size of the project,
and collaboration of both electric giants of the continent:
GE and Westinghouse contributed to the publicity engine.
Frequency: 25 Hz
Two-Phase, Alternating Current
Power Transmission Length: 25 miles at 11,000 volts using
Power system built by: Westinghouse
Cataract Company: George Forbes
Westinghouse: Benjamin G. Lamme, Oliver Shallenberger,
General Electric: William
Stanley, Dr. Louis Bell, Charles P. Steinmetz
Maximum Power Output: 37 Megawatts: 50,000 horsepower
MORE on the ENGINEERS:
Evershed - water power engineer, naturalist, and artist-
worked for the State of New York on the Erie Canal. Niagara
Falls was his last big project at age 69. He is responsible for
preserving the aesthetics of Niagara Falls today. He designed
the power station to not interfere with the natural beauty of
Goat Island and tourist development areas of the American side.
G. Lamme - The principal electrical engineer who
built and improved generator designs from Tesla. Lamme is arguably
Westinghouse's greatest pioneer. Lamme designed practical and
reliable designs of all sorts of apparatus including generators,
motors, rotary converters. Today we use Lamme's induction motor
design, not Tesla's. This genius remained loyal to Westinghouse
and was awarded many honors in his lifetime. Today he is unfortunately
unknown. Read more about him here.
Shallenberger - Was an early pioneer of AC power
before Tesla and Lamme at Westinghouse. Shallenberger was involved
in the Great Barrington experiment with William Stanley. They
pioneered transformer design. By 1895 Shallenberger was working
with Westinghouse as an independent contractor. His early contributions
in the 1880s were an important foundation for more sophisticated
work in the 1890s. More on Shallenberger
Tesla - The Adams plant was based on Tesla's 25 Hz
AC power system. The Tesla Society falsely states: "Nikola
Tesla and George Westinghouse built the first hydroelectric
power plant in 1895 in Niagara Falls and started the electrification
of the world".
This internet myth
has gained enormous strength. It is well documented that efforts
at Niagara Falls were a result of a larger team. Strangely Westinghouse
himself had suggested transporting power to Buffalo using compressed
air in 1890 despite past successes in experimental AC systems.
Another testament to the need for teamwork was the fact that
Tesla's initial generator designs for Niagara were burning up
on test, it took Lamme and his team to fix the design and make
the generators usable. C.P. Steinmetz working as independent
contractor was also involved in fixing this thermal/electrical
issue. Interestingly Steinmetz had worked on General Electric's
competing 3 phase bid ($1 million) to get the power generation
contract at Niagara. Westinghouse won the bid by undercutting
GE by $ 601,000. What followed was a great experiment to make
a working large scale 25 Hz system! Read
Important Dates for NIAGARA FALLS:
1880s - Other small scale DC hydro power operations existed at
Niagara Falls, none compare to the scale of Evershed's plans, but the
idea of putting a large scale power plant at the site is widespread.
- In nearby Buffalo, New York the first commercial AC power system
in the USA is built. This system designed by George Westinghouse, William
Stanley, and Oliver B. Shallenberger
1886 - Thomas
Evershed develops a plan to use massive underground tunnels and a powerhouse
to capture the power of the Niagara River at the falls.
1892 - George Forbes decides to use an alternating current system
instead of direct current. AC power had proven itself the best system
for power transmission the year before at the Electro-Technical
Exposition at Frankfurt, Germany.
1892 - Construction started on a 21 ft. high 18 ft. wide tunnel
to capture Niagara waters for the power plant. The tunnel took 3 years
to build and cost 28 lives
1893 - Final bids were presented by GE and Westinghouse for the
generators. The Cataract Company chose 2 phase instead of GE's 3 phase
system. Westinghouse proposed 30 and 60 Hz systems. General Electric
proposed 41.66 Hz. President Adams and Forbes of the Cataract Co. chose
Westinghouse's system, thinking that two phase would work better for
the anticipated single phase distribution to homes.
1895 - Powerhouse #1 began producing power. Consisted of 5000
hp, 25 Hz, two-phase, four-wire generators.
1896 - November 15th the City of Buffalo first receives power
from the falls from a 25 mile transmission line