The Lighting of Great Barrington – 130 Years of Success
A similar article was published as an op-ed column in the Sunday, March 20, 2016, edition of the Berkshire Eagle.
By Jeff Benjamin, Westinghouse Electric Company Senior Vice President New Plants & Major Projects
On this day 130 years ago in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, inventor and chief engineer for Westinghouse Electric Company, William Stanley, Jr., working for and with inventor and industrialist George Westinghouse, demonstrated the first complete system for high voltage alternating current transmission.
Many inventors from around the world contributed to this achievement, but Stanley’s ingenious idea of how to change the first transformer to one that could be put to practical and economic use in a commercial electrical system was the turning point.
With his transformers, Stanley was able to allow 3,000 volts of electricity to travel from an AC generator installed near Cottage Street through wires strung along Main Street. There, in six basements in buildings along that main thoroughfare, his machines “transformed” the high voltage current by reducing it to 500 volts so that it could safely light 30 100-volt incandescent lamps connected to the system.
The Great Barrington demonstration proved an economical, practical, safe and affordable method of providing electricity to general populations. It is a day to be celebrated in Great Barrington, and across the world. We continue to use the same basic features today to power homes, hospitals and businesses, from life-saving equipment to the common conveniences we rely on every day.
Westinghouse Electric Company celebrates this day as a milestone in company history. By November 1886, Westinghouse Electric Company sold its first patented system to operate the first commercial AC generating station in Buffalo, New York. The lighting of Great Barrington moved the company forward.
Soon after, Nikola Tesla and his patents for the AC polyphase system were onboard. By 1888 with the integrated AC system all of their efforts created, Westinghouse Electric Company had installed more than 300 power stations.
George Westinghouse and his company brought together inventors from around the world to develop ideas into practical systems to provide solutions for societal needs. This inclusive innovative approach remains our foundation. Today, nuclear power is the source we innovate for and invest in, and it has been just as revolutionary.
Westinghouse’s AP1000® Nuclear Power Plant evolved from an innovative design approach that incorporated the collaborative work of nuclear engineers from 22 countries. The company’s current signature reactor technology is the safest, cleanest and most economical way to generate electricity that meets today’s demand for consistently flowing high-volume electricity.
Each plant helps our nation meet its goals for clean energy and energy independence. The carbon-free energy from the four new AP1000 reactors being built in the southeastern U.S. will save the carbon emission equivalent of two million cars.
And, rather than lighting 30 bulbs, today one AP1000 reactor powers nearly every home in Boston.
Westinghouse Electric Company continues to provide safe, clean and affordable energy while operating with the innovation spirit of 1886, William Stanley and George Westinghouse.