Power Plant 1893
Mill Creek No. 1 was the first 3-phase commercial AC power plant in
small powerhouse just east of Redlands was supplied by Pelton waterwheels.
of this Power Generation Site:
features: First commercial Alternating Current 3-phase
hydro power plant
Frequency: 50 cycle Three-Phase, Alternating Current Power Transmission Length: 7 miles Power system built by: General Electric Notable Engineers:Elihu Thomson,
William Stanley, Almirian
Dr. Louis Bell (chief transmission engineer), Edwin
Wilbur Rice Jr., Ernst Danielson Maximum Power Output: 250 kW
power had been used for thousands of years, but use for electricity
began in the mid 19th century. The early power plants like the one
in Dolgeville, NY (1879) ran DC power for industrial uses very close
to the dam. Until the 3-phase AC generator, there was no way to
transmit power long distance (to downtown areas in cities for example).
North Americas First:
had proven at the Lauffen-Frankfurt demonstration in 1891
that 3-phase AC power could be sent 109 miles. Westinghouse and
General Electric studied the event and immedicately began working
on 3 phase systems of their own. Elihu Thomson
at General Electric had been working with AC power since 1885, and
set to work on the Redlands plant as a first commercial installation.
The San Bernadino area had already been using DC power to move water
for agriculture and human uses. In 1891 work began to get an AC
power plant in the area to sent power to nearby Redlands, a feat
not possible with the conventional DC power houses.
late 1880's the agricultural business had expanded in southern California.
Valley areas with natural streams were fully utilized by the orange
growers. There was a great quantity of land in the surrounding hills
which could potentially be used for cultivation if there was a way
to pump water uphill. Eastern investors supported the move to build
the Redlands powerhouse which used the power of the Mill Creek.
Pipes were placed under the creekbed to channel almost all the water
into the Pelton waterwheels. The generators are pictured below.
Almirian Decker designed the plant as a whole while Thomson worked
the technical details. Dr. Louis Bell represented the Thomson-Houston
Company(part of General Electric) on the west coast and pioneered
early distance transmission systems. Ernst Danielson, a talented
Swedish engineer helped work on the project and then moved on to
build 3 phase power plants in Sweden. Dr. Louis Bell went on to
work on the Folsom, CA power plant.
wish to read in detail about this plant, please read this
work by Ronald L. Burgess
There were two three-phase hydroelectric generators rated at
250-kw, 2400 volts, each.
power was transmitted seven miles to the town of Redlands using
wooden power poles. The year after completion there was a drought.
Today the Mill Creek is mostly piped underground, with a small stream
on the surface (see photo below)
flowing from the San Bernardino mountains. Forest Falls lay close
to the source, a snowy valley.
which includes Redlands developments with others:
The General Electric
Alternating Current Team (1890s):
Louis Bell: Designed the power transmission system.
Decker: Worked on early 3 phase generators for General Electric
Thomson: Worked on the first General Electric 3 phase AC
Stanley: Designed the earliest transformers
P. Steinmetz: Improved three phase power technology through
mathematics and design
The General Electric Story by the Hall of Electrical History Redlands Powers the World - How the San Bernardino Valley Developed
Modern Electric Power First - by Ronald L. Burgess
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