The Power of Niagara

To get a feel for the untamed power and energy of Niagara Falls, which Tesla revered even as a child, I will take you on a helicopter ride over the falls.

Figure 2. Bird's eye view of Niagara Falls, includes American Falls, Goat Island, and the Canadian Falls. — Thomas Valone.

We begin at the lower side of the Rainbow Bridge and gradually approach the American and Canadian Falls respectively. The Niagara River has an average of 202,000 cubic feet per second water flow. The thundering power of this rushing water is so loud when one stands next to the falls that we can easily understand why Tesla was so intent on trying to tap some of it for the large scale generation of electricity.

Swinging around the Canadian lulls, also referred to as the "Horseshoe Falls" because of their shape, we see the land mass between the Falls called "Goat Island" where the Tesla Statue stands today. Notice also the tour boats, called, "Maid of the Mist" boats, which go right up to the base of the Horseshoe Falls and spray all of the passengers with water, while they experience the most magnificent rainbows in the world.

Generating Stations

A plaque has been placed at the site of the earliest power generating station at Niagara Falls. Located downstream from the American Falls, (very near the spot where the helicopter started from), the Schoellkopf Hydro-Electric Power Station was inaugurated on December 14, 1881 by the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Company, predecessor of the Niagara Falls Power Company. From a data book supplied by the "Power Authority of the State of New York," we note that the Schoellkopf plant has been documented as "the first public demonstration of electricity at Niagara Falls." It involved DC generator arc light machines using the 86-foot drop of a paper company mill shaft. Supplying "the light of 2(XX) candles" to a few companies in the local vicinity, it awakened everyone to the potential of cheap electricity from Niagara Falls.

Figure 4. Aerial view of the American Falls at Niagara Falls. - Pana-vue.

The Edward Dean Adams Hydro-Electric Power Station Number One was inaugurated on August 26, 1895 by the Niagara Falls Power Company. Currently the Station's nameplate and the entire archway of the entrance to the huilding stands on Goat Island directly in back of the Tesla Statue. The Adams Plant Number One contained ten 5,000 horsepower generators yielding 37,000 kilowatts. A second Adams Plant (Number Two), doubled that output. The original plant was designed for 25 Hz only, though "subsequent expansion included conversion to 60 Hz." [2 J

The Schoellkopf Power Generating Station #3A in 1914 had a total output of 130,000 horsepower. It was razed in 1958. Schoellkopf Power Stations #3B and #3C, completed in 1920 and 1924 respectively, produced a total of 322,500 horsepower. Unfortunately, these two plants were destroyed in an unanticipated rock slide which occurred in 1956. A beautifully worded plaque is mounted about 20 feet from the Schoellkopf plaques. Erected by the Niagara Falls Power Company in 1922, it says, "To the engineers financiers scientists whose genius courage and industry made possible here the birth of hydro-electric power and created the first five thousand horse power water turbines directly connected to alternating current generators and inaugurated in America long distance transmission of power by electricity." Tesla's handiwork made it all possible!

Figure 5. Aerial view of Schoelkopf plant rockslide. - Tom Valone
Figure 6. Two million kilowatt Robert Moses Power Plant — Tom Valone

What really happened in 1956 that devastated most of the Schoellkopf plants'.' Well, a book entitled. Colossal Cataract shows the before and after pictures. A tremendous collapse of the cliff above the #3B and #3C plants occurred. The wall was never finished with the fine masonary work that still covers the #3A cliff on the left to this day. The entire Schoellkopf facility was rated at 365,000 kilowatts before disaster struck and part of it was restored to 95,000 kilowatts for a couple of years afterwards.

Within three years after the Schoellkopf Plant #3A was razed, the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant was opened, with a capacity of 1,950,000 kilowatts, enough to supply a city the size of Chicago today with electricity. Its thirteen generators are the largest of their kind ever constructed by an American manufacturer. For comparison, the Grand Coulee generators are rated at 108,000 kilowatts. Tesla was right when he foresaw the enormous power potential of Niagara Falls. The Robert Moses Plant required 3,650,000 cubic yards of concrete and 284,000,000 pounds of reinforcing steel. Power is produced at 13,800 volts and stepped up to the current high voltage limit of 365,000 volts for efficient long-distance transmission. The Power Plant structure is 1840 feet long and 390 feet high. No rock slide could ever disturb this installation!

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