Video: Idea to Innovation: Power Transmission

Niagara Falls has a history of romance, wonder and power. All the way back in 1759 we find the first record of someone using the force of the falls to power a small sawmill. Through the years, rights were bought and sold. But the power generated was only useful for those located right next to the falls.

That changed in the 1890s, when the Niagara Power Company offered a $100,000 prize for ideas on how to transmit the power over long distances. No one responded. So, they formed a think tank instead. Alternating current (AC) a new-fangled technology championed by inventor Nikola Tesla and industrialist George Westinghouse, won out.

By 1895, the Westinghouse Company was contracted to develop the delivery infrastructure, including the transformers and the overhead wires to the city of Buffalo, New York, which was more than 25 miles away. On November 15, 1896, the Niagara Power Company became the first company to provide electricity over long distance lines for commercial purposes.

As Tesla put it in his speech at the opening ceremony, “It was a monument worthy of our scientific age, a true monument of enlightenment and of peace.” Yeah, it was kind of a big deal.


Did you know?

APS maintains 6,189 miles of transmission lines, plus 32,272 miles of distribution lines, over 34,646 square miles of territory. This network of lines connects our most northern generating station, Four Corners in Farmington, New Mexico, to businesses as far south as Sonora, Mexico. Visit our website to learn how we are planning for the future.