Tesla at Niagara

1886 – 1895 Tesla at Niagara


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Young Tesla

His childhood dream was to harness the natural power of “Niagara” and convert the fluid and potential energy of the upper Niagara river into man-made electrical power. This power station would be the first world class, alternating current facility and his dream was now on the engineering and architectural drawing boards.

The hydroelectric power station plan was designed by Thomas Evershed in 1886. Edward Dean Adams, president of the Cataract Construction Company and creator of the 1890 International Niagara Commission was contracted as the site builder. In 1892, George Forbes was hired as a technical consultant and in May 1893 (also the opening date of the Electric building at the Chicago Colombian Exposition) he convinced the company to build a hydroelectric system based on poly-phase alternating current. The Westinghouse Electric Company was subcontracted to build 5,000 horsepower (3,700 kW) 25 Hz AC generators, designed after the engineering and research work of Nikola Tesla and Benjamin Lamme. The turbines were to be installed into House No.3 by the I. P. Morris Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania based on a plan from the Swiss company of Faesch and Piccard.

Nikola Tesla had just become an American citizen in 1891 and was experimenting with ways to generate and use electric motors and other inventions with alternating current. He had also made advancements in wireless technology. In 1892 construction of the Niagara Falls power plant and extensive tunnel systems began at and below ground level. Nikola Tesla was brought in to oversee the installation of the AC generators, transformers and other related scientific equipment for this herculean endeavor. Westinghouse and J.P. Morgan, John Jacob Astor, and the Vanderbuilt family were the major financing resources for funding the project.

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