Feed Line No. 8
THE SNOQUALMIE FALLS POWER PLANT
An 1898 Milestone in Electric Power Generation
by Gary Peterson
It was Nikola Tesla's AC power system, first used
commercially in 1895, that made possible the harnessing of often remote waterfalls and the
long distances transmission of their power to metropolitan centers. By early 1897 there
were some 300 electrical power generating plants operating here in the United States. The
most important of these, the Adams Hydro-Electric Power Station, had transmitted 746
kilowatts of AC power 26 miles from Niagara Falls to Buffalo, New York on Nov.
16, 1896. The plant's generators were housed in an above-ground structure positioned just above the
falls on the north shore of the Niagara River.
Washington state's 100+ year old
Snoqualmie Falls power plant was the
first ever to house its generators completely below ground. The underground cavity, which
initially held four horizontal impulse type waterwheel turbines and four stationary field
3-phase Westinghouse generators, was carved out of solid bedrock 270 feet below the
surface. Locating a generating station in this manner represented an
entirely new mode of
construction as America transitioned into the present era of electric power.