Several years ago we visited the Natural History Museum in Chicago. The one exhibit that sticks in my mind was a series of scale models of steam engines demonstrating the improvements made over time. Our first computer had 48k of ram and a tape drive. Most of us can remember 5.25 floppies but few in their 20's have ever seen them. Our modern technology did not arrive as it is but has evolved, each advance building on what has gone before.
Recently Hubby and I visited the Folsom Powerhouse. It was decommissioned about the time that the power plant Hubby worked at was being built. A sturdy structure was common to both plants. This one was built of brick in the 1890's while the Gorge plant was made of concrete in the 1950's.
The more modern plant has a vertical shaft. The turbines are in the basement and the generator is in a housing outside the plant. A much quieter arrangement than we see here. Here the turbines are inside the building and so are the generators. This horizontal shaft transmits the energy from the turbines to the generator on the other side of the wall. The operators worked in the same area and the noise would have been deafening.
This crane was used for lifting and moving the generator for repair. While the basic form has not changed, this was moved by manpower while today's cranes have motors to move them along the tracks.
Most of the pieces of equipment I could recognize, though their form has been refined over years some elements remain the same. This is a governor and the housing for the important part (it is the part at top that looks a bit like the smoke stack on an old locomotive) hasn't changed much. The governor controls the speed of the generator buy spinning some balls in that housing.
Knife switches, such as these, are still in use but more care is used today to shield them from human contact. When engaged as these are they would be "hot" and anyone brushing against them would be fried!
Modern fire suppression in the plants uses an inert gas to smother a fire, a system that wasn't available 100 years ago.
Seeing this I realize that the basic technology has not changed much; water turns a turbine which turns a shaft which rotates the generator and produces electrical energy. The biggest change has been in safety, equipment is shielded from human contact, generators and transmission lines are more efficient but otherwise, not much has changed since this, one of the earliest power plants, was built over 100 years ago.
The important technical inovation was learning how to convert the energy in moving water to electricity. Once we could do this it was no longer necessary to locate mills near a source of moving water.
More information can be found at the State Park website.
See more views of our wonderful and interesting world at My World Tuesday, hosted for us by Klaus, Sandy, Wren and Sylvia.