In 1900, electric power cost $40/kwh

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by DMahalko, Oct 6, 2013.

  1. DMahalko

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Oct 5, 2008
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    The Electric Journal, Volume 14, Number 5, May 1914
    Westinghouse Club
    Copyright 1917


    http://books.google.com/books?id=CjAyAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA1


    Quote from page 1:

    The outstanding feature of the year 1916 as compared with the previous one is the remarkable change in the operating conditions of both the public service corporations and the electrical manufacturing concerns.

    During 1915 a wave of economy and retrenchment swept over the entire central station industry; while the past year has witnessed such tremendous increases in loads that even some of the very large power companies were unable to furnish service when requested, and in a few cases it became necessary for industrial establishments to arrange for their own supplementary power supply.

    An interesting result of this condition was the case of two large power companies covering adjoining territories whose peak loads came at different times of the day and who arranged for an interchange of power. In this way each company was enabled to take on about 10,000 horse power additional that would have been impossible if each distribution system had been operated separately.

    Last year the largest turbogenerator unit was one having a rating of 47,000 kva, which had been ordered by the Duquesne Light Company of Pittsburgh. Progress in this branch of the industry continues very actively and the same company is now in the market for a unit rated at 70,800 kva. The Interborough Rapid Transit Company, of New York, have also ordered a 60,000 - 70,000 kva unit.

    These extremely rapid increases have been accompanied by corresponding developments in condensers, boilers, and furnaces, and enormous economies are being secured by the use of these immense units.

    For instance, in 1900 a number of 5,000 kw units installed in New York cost over forty dollars per kilowatt, whereas units of 30,000 kw and over have recently been installed for nine dollars per kilowatt including condensers.

    In addition to the reduction in investment cost, it has been found possible in a number of cases to install these large units in the same space occupied by older and smaller capacity outfits, and in some cases no increase was necessary in boiler space by reason of the greatly improved methods of steam generation now in use.

    Economies have been increased from three pounds of coal per kilowatt hour for some of the early machines to one and one half pounds per kilowatt hour for the modern turbines. These facts readily explain why the larger power companies cannot afford to continue running some of their older apparatus.

    [...]
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2013
  2. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    Uhm.... There's a difference between a kilowatt and a kilowatt-hour. They can't be compared directly at all.

    The article is not talking about the cost to consumers of energy in dollars per kWh. They are talking about the cost of the installed equipment to generate the electricity in dollars per kW of capacity. Apples and oranges.

    If a plant installs equipment that costs $10/kW and wants to recover that cost via the electricity it sells in just one year, then barely one tenth of one cent has to be recovered from each kWh that is sold.
     
  3. DMahalko

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Oct 5, 2008
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    Ah, I see. Well, I see my error, and so this posting is irrelevant. Please delete this thread.
     
  4. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    Oh, it's still interesting in an off it's own right. And it does bring up the question of what utility rates have been historically, particularly in inflation-adjusted figures.

    I've only found data going back to 1990 in the brief search I just made. Maybe someone can find some data going back a century.
     
  5. wayneh

    Expert

    Sep 9, 2010
    12,093
    3,033
    Yes it is interesting that 100 years ago was when such rapid advancement was being made. They weren't interested in CO2 but they sure knew the value of using half the coal to get the same amount of electricity. Coal consumption is about 0.8 lb/kwh today, not quite half what it was 100 years ago, when it was halved from 10 years before that.
     
  6. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    Not too surprising, actually. New technologies are characterized by very rapid improvements since, being new, there are lots of low hanging fruits to go after. Highly mature technologies tend to see relatively few significant advancements. Not only is this due to the fruit being much more out of reach, but also to increasing barriers to market entry and standardization and regulation making it increasingly difficult to be innovative. That's not a political statement and it's not saying anything about whether standardization and regulation are good, bad, necessary, excessive or otherwise. It is simply the way it is (and probably has to be to one degree or other). This is one of the reasons why new technologies generally are better left to find their own way instead of trying to have some heavy hand (be it government or corporate) "guide" them and force them to scale up before they are ready.
     
  7. RichardO

    Well-Known Member

    May 4, 2013
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    Very interesting history. Thank you for posting it.

    However, I am also confused. Are they really talking about single generators that are producing 47,000 kva. That would be 47 mega watts!
     
  8. WBahn

    Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
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    Yep. And that was 1916. They also said that the company that purchased the 47MVA generator was in the market for a 70.8MVA and other similar orders had already been let.

    In comparison, the Three Gorges damn in China uses 32 Francic-turbine generators that are 700MW each. I haven't found the specifics, but have seen references that Francis turbogenerators exist that exceed 1GW.
     
  9. apprenticemart2

    Member

    May 7, 2013
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    I have seen a device about the size of a bucket that produces 1.21 GW, and get this, the new version runs off banana skins and carbonated soft drinks.
     
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