Pioneering Hydroelectric Power

The pioneering phase of hydroelectric power began in 1880 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Before 1880, water was often used in mills to turn waterwheels or turbines to grind flour and corn. After 1880, everything changed when enterprising inventor and entrepreneur William T. Powers connected a dynamo generator to a water turbine. Suddenly, the power created from falling water could be stored and transported across short distances to provide electricity. The electricity from the Grand Rapids generator was used to provide arc lighting to a nearby theater.

Power to More Customers

It wasn’t until 1895 that the electricity created by falling water could be transported to more distant customers. In August of 1895, the generators at the largest hydroelectric plant in the world began turning at Niagara Falls. The Edward Dean Adams Power Station and dam proved you could make money transmitting power over long distances to customers. It established new industry standards for producing hydroelectric power. Hydroelectric power technology spread across the country as it was adapted to local topography by communities everywhere.

Standardization of Technology

Between 1920 and 1930, more hydroelectric plants started their engines or had significant upgrades than during any other decade. Plants and dams became more standardized as the industry became more nationalized. Equipment and designs continued to adapt to the local topography, but companies started to make standard parts and equipment to sell across the country. Even the supporting buildings became more standardized, as buildings like powerhouses tended to be made of brick and steel with flat roofs.

Effects of the Great Depression

During the Great Depression, the demand for power decreased and improvements to hydroelectric power plants stalled. The 1930s brought increasing government regulation of the hydroelectric industry. Instead of private companies, government investment in dams blossomed under New Deal programs through agencies like the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Established in 1933, the TVA launched massive dam projects to provide flood control, irrigation and economic development, as well as electricity to local communities.

After World War II

After WWII, the post-war boom increased the demand for electricity by consumers and manufacturers. Most of the rivers that could provide hydroelectricity had already been dammed, and utilities started building large-scale steam power plants.

Today’s Power

To meet Georgia’s growing demand for energy, Georgia Power considers a wide range of energy resources. From coal to solar, our diverse energy options allow us to provide reliable, safe and affordable energy to our customers. As an environmental steward, Georgia Power is constantly researching the effectiveness of new energy sources as we strive to lessen our impact on the environment.