Electricity and WNY - Table of Contents

Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse

Nikola Tesla   ...   George Westinghouse

In November and December of 1887, Nikola Tesla, a Serbian engineer, filed for seven U.S. patents in the field of polyphase AC motors and power transmission. His motor produced alternating current and his transformers stepped up and stepped down the voltage as required. Westinghouse believed in Tesla's inventions, installed, them in the Adams Station and brought electricity to Buffalo.

The challenge

To send electricity over long distances requires high voltage to "push" the current through wires. Yet using high voltages n homes and factories can be dangerous.

With a transformer, alternating current (AC) can easily be "stepped up" to high voltages for transmission, or "stepped down" to lower voltages for manufacturing and domestic uses. This cannot be done with direct current (DC).

Westinghouse VS. Edison

George Westinghouse's firm faith in the AC system led to the founding of the Westinghouse Electric Company in 1886, to oppose the DC system supported by Edison. Westinghouse's company deliberately underbid and won the contract to power the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The widely publicized implementation of AC converted skeptics, like Lord Kelvin, and forced them to recognize the system's potential.

Based on this success, the Cataract Company hired Westinghouse to build ten 5,000 horsepower generators for the Adams Station. This was a tremendous challenge because earlier generators were only 150 horsepower!

- Illustrations and text from a 2004 display in the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society  (Special thanks to Director Dr. William Siener for his cooperation and encouragement)

In 1893, at the Chicago World's fair, Tesla's invention of polyphase alternate current was applied in practice as an integral system of power-supply of lights and different motors, thanks to close collaboration of Nicola Tesla and George Westinghouse - the owner of Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company.

On 26 August, 1895, only two days before the Krka hydroelectric power plant, Adams's hydroelectric plant on the Niagara Falls was put into operation.  The development of the project of the hydroelectric power plant was set in 1889, and when George Westinghouse joined the project, it was ensured that Tesla's invention  would be applied in construction of integral electro energetic system for production, transmission  and distribution of polyphase alternating current.  in November 1896 long-distance AC power transmission between Adam's hydropower plant and the town of Buffalo was established.
- Illustrations and text: Nikola Tesla in Sibenik

Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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