George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla

     The two giants in the promotion of alternating current and hydroelectric power in the late 1800’s were George Westinghouse from Pennsylvania and Nikola Tesla from Croatia.  Originally working separately, they joined forces in the 1880’s.  Tesla possessed deep insight and held many patents;  Westinghouse had engineering resources and know-how.
     They both promoted alternating current and its advantages.  It could be produced cheaply and could be transmitted over long distances.  They were challenged by Thomas Edison.  He promoted the advantages of direct current.  He believed that alternating current was not safe.
     In 1893, Westinghouse and Tesla developed an a-c power plant for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  This provided power to the 172,000 incandescent lamps at the fair.  This was a dramatic demonstration of the utility of a-c.
     Telluride, Colorado was a mountain mining town.  It’s products included gold, silver,lead, zinc, and copper.  The mines required power for operation of its machinery.  Lucien Nunn was a local entrepreneur who had an interest in the Gold King Mine and held water rights in the San Miguel River 2.6 miles from the mine.  He approached Westinghouse with a proposal to build hydroelectric plant on the river.  Westinghouse built two 100 hp generators for the project.  This was a huge success.  Nunn then formed the Telluride Power Company to build power plants for other towns and mines.
     The crown-jewel of the Westinghouse–Tesla collaboration was the Niagra Falls hydroelectric plant.  It went on line in1895.  It had a total of 10 a-c generators of five thousand h.p.  This supplied electrical power to significant portions of New York State.
     It would seem only logical that when the Marseilles Hydroelectric Plant on the Illinois River was proposed that Westinghouse and Tesla would be consulted.  (Recall that this plant was proposed to supply power for the interurban electric line).  The Westinghouse–Tesla supplied much technical support and equipment for a successful project.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s