Development of Electricity

Men knew the methods of harnessing rivers for irrigation and transport for many centuries. In 1810, the Italian genius Leonardo da Vinici illustrated the turbine principle. The word turbine was however coined by the French Engineer Claude Burdin. His pupil Benoit Fourneyron produced the first practial turbine in 1827 to power factories. But soon its important role with the development of hydroelectric power was realised after the momentous invention of dynamo and transformer by Michael Faraday and light by electricity by Sir Humphry Davy who later invented the miner safety lamp. Davy process of burning of electrodes was expensive. The first arc lamps were installed in 1855 for street lighting in Rue Imperiale Lyon, France. In 1876 the Russian-born engineer Paul Jablochkoff invented the electric candle.

In December 1878 London Victria Embankment became the first street in Britain to be permanently lit by electricity, Jablochkoff candles being used. The first home illuminated throughout by electricity was that of Col. Crompton, who lit his own residence in Porchester Garden, London in December 1879. The first electricity-lit house in the world, Berechurch Hall near Colchester, Essex was installed by him, powered by a Crompton Dynamo. In the late seventies of the nineteenth century, electricity meant lighting. Public supply was not essential to domestic and industrial usage, as they did not exist.

Every lighting installation was independent. Driven by steam or gas engines, the current generated by a small dynamo was sufficient to keep few lamps running. However, the scope of electric lighting was growing very fast. By this time Thomas Alva Edison in USA and Joseph Swan in England had brought to a practical stage the incandescent filament lamp.

By the early 1880s electric light had progressed rapidly and reached the status of industry. With the incandescent filament lamps now available there was an increase prospect for the lighting of houses, business premises, public buildings and the idea of distribution of electricity on a large scale from a Central Station supplying to the entire area around it emerged. With the improvement of Dynamo, and Electric Motor capable of practical applications already installed by Thomas Devenport in 1839, electricity progressed very fast. Rail roads, which had already arrived in 1825 became its logical partner for progress and development. Richard Trevithic, a man from Cornwall demonstrated a steam locomotive to a group of people in Wales in 1804. His locomotive was plagued with mechanical problems until George Stephenson and his son Robert brough about the progress and success of this invention.

Prof. Charles Page made an early demonstration of an electric locomotive in Washington DC in 1839. Scientists in the 1850s had developed considerable curiosity in the development of a proper electric traction until Edward and John Hopkinson made possible he first electric railway in the world for the London underground, inaugurated by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) on November 4, 1890 at King William Street. The initial locos were built by Mather and Platt, Crompton and Co., Siemens Bros and Co., and carriages were built by Ashbury Carriage, Brush Electric Engg. Hurst Nelson, GF Milnes and Co. etc.

As electricity began to enter in people lives, the electric power industry continued its speedy growth. In 1881 a small plant supplied by Siemens installed at Pullman Leather Mill at Godalming in Surrey, England was the world first power station. It was a hydroelectric plant on the river Wey using the river waterpower to generate electricity and selling most of the output to Godalming Town Council.

The power station supplied electricity for street lighting, and offered to connect up private premises as well, through the cables running along the gutters. Since not many people were willing to pay for the more expensive and less durable electric light (electric light was at that time more expensive than the gas and the early electric bulbs had very short life) the venture was not profitable, the plant was closed down after three years in 1884. In 1882 two power stations of more lasting significance opened. In January the Edson Company (later General Electric) at Holborn Viaduct in London was commissioned. The machinery, consisting of an Electric Dynamo (Generator) coupled to a steam engine generated enough current at 110Volts to provide power for 1000 Edison light bulbs. The same type of machinery was installed later in the year in the Edison Company Pearl Street Power Station in New York.

In 1886, Crompton formed the Kensington Court Lighting Co. Ltd. To supply electricity to a number of private houses in the same locality. Earlier in the year he set up a power station at Shenkenstrasse in Vienna with eight 200hp Crompton Willans Engines coupled to 400V dynamos to light all imperial theatres and a large number of public buildings and offices facing the Ring Boulevard. Around this time a small central station had been started at Berlin at Friedrichstrasse for supplying electricity to few homes on either side of it.

The first commercial scale hydropower plant (220kW) was put into operation by Jacob Schoelkopf in 1881 on Niagara River at Appleton, Wisconsin. Major hydroelectric Power stations installed in the last decade of the 19th century include Niagara Falls Hydroelectric Scheme (1893) in USA, Montomarence, near Quebec and at the Lachine Rapids on St. Lawrence River both in Canada. By 1895 two more hydroelectric power plants were functioning in the USA the Edward Adams Plant at Schenectady, New York and the other at Salt Lake city, Utah. Mexican Light & Power Co. took up a 30 kW project on river Necaxa for supply to Mexico City. A 60 MW Shiznoke project was undertaken in Japan. Gas and Steam driven generators were installed in almost all big cities in Europe and America. By the turn of the 19th Century, Europe had an installed capacity of over 2500 MW.

In any flourishing young industry, it is common that various leaders come up with different ideas, sometimes quite loudly to be heard. In the early years of power generation, around the 1890s a battle developed between the supporters of Direct Current (DC) and those of Alternating Current (AC). In DC rechargeable batteries (accumulators) could be used in the system ensuring continuity of supply in the event of a generator breakdown. Moreover DC was the cheaper system in densely built urban areas. However, for long distance transmission losses are reduced by increasing transmission voltage and then reduced by step down transformers for distribution to individual premises. With no moving parts AC transformers are more complex machines. While Crompton in England and Edison in the America advocated supply of DC system, S.Z de Ferranti, a brilliant young engineer of London Electric Supply Corporation and George Westinghouse of Pitsburg were its main opponents. AC machinery constructed by Westinghouse in 1889 was chosen to power the electric chair received adverse criticism but he gained the argument when he received the contract for supply of electric machinery for the Niagara Falls Scheme in 1893.

The Second World War had an enormous impact on electrical technology. Most importantly people realized that the electric power was now a necessity, not a luxury. In addition to the use of electricity for industry and lighting, it was used to make aluminium and explosives that were so important during the time of war. Radio technology also developed radically along with the need to keep people across the world in touch with each other at war time. Radiotelephony began to replace coded wireless, and there were significant milestones in technical developments. One of the more brilliant was Edwin Howard Armstong super heterodyne circuit. Between 1939 and 1945 another crucial development took place as radio engineering developed into electronics. It was now a technology to harness the most advanced and subtle knowledge of the very parts of matter itself, manipulating electrons and eletromagnetic waves almost at will in an effort not to simply communicate, but to detect, control and even, as some saw it, think. Science and technology began to merge as advances in electronics made the use of the latest findings, theories and even techniques of physicists and chemists, while scientific discovery came to rely progressively more on the instrumentation created by engineers. The post-war years were the ones of growth and change. War was followed by prosperity, and most of the western world developed a consumer society that ran on electricity and used electronics.

Orient Power, was incorporated, a supply source less than one roof for entire Hardware for Transmission and Distribution equipment. Today, Orient Power has emerged as a leading manufacturer exporter in Power Sector.

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