History of Universal Electrical Power Systems

http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/projects/cases/niagara.htm

Nikola Tesla--The Father of AC
But instead of resolving the matter of the best means to convey Niagara power to Buffalo, the International Niagara Commission had left it as confused as ever. Most of the plans submitted were for DC, but DC had known drawbacks for transmission. A close second, in terms of numbers, to DC was compressed air. Several plans were for AC, and the most elaborated and intriguing of these was for polyphase AC. The polyphase AC plan had garnered no prizes, however ...

The War of the Currents
The War of the Currents, which had begun as a spirited but more or less conventional exchange of business propaganda claims and counterclaims, heated up in 1888 with the publication of Edison's "A Warning" on the mortal danger of AC. What drove Edison to this extreme measure must have been in part a genuine belief that AC was more dangerous than DC, but also a vague sense that something was catching up on him. Edison still had more installations than Westinghouse, but the Westinghouse and other AC companies were growing faster than Edison's companies. No doubt, a sharp rise in the price of copper in 1887 contributed to Edison's mood. A French syndicate had cornered the copper market and driven the price up. DC systems, because of the low voltages, used thick copper conductors to lessen resistance, whereas AC could be sent on thin wires at high voltages. So the copper problem hurt Edison more than it hurt the AC systems ...

The Triumph of AC
But by and large, Westinghouse--or at least the Westinghouse Company--seemed to focus its energy where it would do the most good, namely, in the development of an efficient and effective AC system ...

The Birth of an Industry
The irony is, once the system was in operation, transmission to Buffalo, which in the planning stages was thought to be critical to the viability of the project, turned out to be much less of a factor. Primarily because the availability of abundant cheap power spawned an entirely new industry in Niagara Falls--the electrochemical industry--whose power requirements right from the start accounted for virtually the entire supply. The new industry spurred the production of greater quantities of electrical power, which in turn spurred further industrial development in Niagara Falls and all of Western New York ...


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