Electric Power From Water Power.
In the old curiosity shop of the United States consular reports one occasionally lights upon something fresh in interest and present in its practical value. This is especially true, remarks a St. Paul contemporary, of a recent paper by Frank H. Mason, consul general at Frankfort, describing a successful attempt in Germany to transform water power into electric force, transmit it by ordinary wires over long distances, and make it available at the end of the route, with only an inconsiderable percentage of loss in transit. At Lauffen, on the Neckar, 108 miles from Frankfort, there is a considerable waterfall, giving an estimated 200 to 300 horse-power. The experiment proposed, in the language of the report, to “ convert it into a current of intense pressure, by specially devised transformers, transmit it to the Frankfort exhibition, there retransform it into a current of ordinary pressure, and in that form apply it to motive and lighting purposes.” The results appear to warrant a report that this can be done with a total loss of not more than twenty-five per cent of the original energy.
Only those familiar with the technical processes of utilising. electric energy would be interested in the detailed description of the mechanism by which this is accomplished. But the practical success of the attempt is of immense moment to the whole world. Everywhere there is water power running to waste, because it is so situated as to be unavailable for commercial purposes, unless by the construction of railroads and the building of factories at points entirely unsuited to them. Were it not for this, which renders the utilization of water power too costly to be profitable, we should have an enormous addition to the available motive force at the service of mankind. It seems probable that all this energy can be transferred to the places where it may be used to most advantage, with no greater outlay than the construction of a small electric plant and an ordinary line of poles and wires. In the German undertaking the conducting apparatus consisted of three naked copper wires, of small diameter, hung upon poles a short distance above the ground ; and yet the total loss in conversion and transmission over this distance of over 100 miles, is no greater than twenty-five per cent. The report states that an English electrical engineer who visited Frankfort to study the experiment says that, in his opinion, *’ the Lauffen-Frankfort transmission is the most momentous experiment made in tech, nical electricity since that mysterious natural force which we call electricity has been made serviceable to mankind.”
The possibilities which this suggests for the development of industry in the United States appeal at once to the dullest imagination. We have an extraordinary abundance of water power in most of our States, but most of it is not devoted to industrial purposes, because it is too far distant from the commercial centres where it could be utilized profitably ; centres which have grown up under the influence of other causes. If, now, we can bring the power to the point where it is valuable, the problem is solved. “ The problem of a cheap motive power for St. Paul,” says the paper of that city from which we quote, “disappears in the light of such an experiment. We have, within a radius less than that covered at Frankfort, water powers of immense commercial value which could be made servant to our uses. The power at Minneapolis has already been applied to manufacturing industries to its full capacity, but there are others near by which are not exhausted. At Sauk Rapids and Taylor’s Falls and other points there is enough energy dissipated daily to turn the wheels of scores of busy industries. All this can be brought to St. Paul, if the facts be as they are stated, at no greater cost than the construction of a dam, the putting in of a turbine wheel and a converter, and the building of a telegraph line to this city. Those interested in the development and increase of local manufacturing industries would do well to look into this interesting and promising experiment at once.” _