The public electric utility is classified as a “natural monopoly” since several sets of competing wires would be impractical - similar to railroads, water, sewer, gas, telephone, and highway systems. Although most early electric utilities were municipally or publicly owned, private investors purchased and consolidated many public electric utilities in major urban areas - most notably Chicago and New York - and would come under “state regulation”. Today the 239 Investor Owner Utilities (IOU’s) serve major urban areas while 2009 municipal public electric utilities continue to supply electricity to medium and small cities across America.
Regardless, at the turn of the last century, demand for electric conveniences skyrocketed and the electric utilities experienced tremendous growth and expansion - to a point. The point being the city limits. Although 54% of the U.S. population lived on farms, in small communities, and in rural and remote areas, they had no possibility of enjoying the modern conveniences associated with electricity. At the time, it was universally agreed that it was financially impractical to extend the power lines beyond the city.
Rural life at the time was simple, basic, and difficult. When the sun set, flame candles and oil lamps were the source of light. Fire hazards, smelly noxious wax and oil combustion gases, soot on walls, and the inconvenience of carrying “light” with you. Fresh water had to be pumped by hand and carried into the house - and supplied to livestock. The least favorite inconvenience was the cold welcome of an “outhouse” behind the home - bring your oil lamp at night.
Welcome to the Hybrid Electric Home
A hybrid electric system combines two or more components to provide better
performance than the individual components alone by utilizing the best
characteristics of each to offset the undesirable attributes of the other
The Hybrid Electric Home - A compelling story about the farm and wind electric plant industry that existed from 1916 to the late 1940’s. It is placed in context by examining its role in the history of electricity from meager beginnings to its ubiquitous presence in all aspects of modern American life. A reflective look back on our experiences is used to forge a cleaner, more efficient, and highly rational electric supply system in the future. Contemporary energy and environmental conditions serve as the basis to apply the lessons learned from the private power plant era and the evolution of the electric supply system to benefit individuals, businesses, and communities.
The global electric revolution started in Paris - The City of Lights. By installing “arc” street lights on the main thoroughfares, the city extended the daylight into a vibrant nightlife and became a model for cities, large and small, around the world.
In the U.S., parallel wiring, incandescent lamps, and the steam power plant enabled Thomas Edison and
J. P. Morgan to sell “direct current (DC) electric systems” to private and public customers. A small hydro plant for lighting in Appleton, WI and Pearl Street Station in the financial district in New York would lead to municipal systems in Boston, Washington D.C., Toledo, Detroit, Chicago, and Southern California. With the wires installed along “Main Street”, “traction” street cars carrying workers and shoppers would follow soon. Of course, the wires would logically be connected to retail and commercial buildings and eventually extended to homes on the adjacent side streets.
Competition from arch rival Nikola Tesla, industrialist George Westinghouse, and the “alternating current(AC) electric system” would lead to a legendary and bitter “battle of the currents”. The DC system was disadvantaged by the limitation that a power plant that could only serve customers within a one mile radius. The AC system had a larger power plant and used transformers to efficiently "transmit" electricity long distances and "distributed" to serve greater areas — “the economy of scale” is born. A spectacular display at the World’s Columbia Exposition and winning the contract to develop Niagara Falls to deliver electricity to distant Buffalo would seal the deal for Tesla, Westinghouse, and the AC system. Edison, Morgan, and General Electric would convert to AC.