Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/595

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
579
ELECTRIC AND GAS ILLUMINATION.

This shows the time of greatest consumption to be between the hours of five and six, and the demand as high as twenty per cent of the entire daily make. In the case of the plant under consideration, the maximum number of burners that will have to be maintained at any one time is therefore 40,000.

Before proceeding to estimate the cost of the plant to generate and distribute electricity sufficient to maintain this number of burners, a few words descriptive of Mr. Edison's system will be desirable, especially as there appears to be considerable misapprehension on the subject. The distribution is what is known as in multiple arc—that is, the lamps are placed upon cross-wires between the conductors. Imagine a ladder erected upon an ordinary railway, so that it stands across the track, each foot resting upon one of the rails. Then these rails will represent the outgoing and returning street-conductors; the sidebars of the ladder, the house-conductors; and each rung, a lamp. The dynamo-machines generating the current are arranged in exactly the same way with regard to the circuit, all the positive poles being joined to one main conductor, and all the negative ones to the other. The arrangement is what is known, in the case of electric batteries, as coupling for quantity, as opposed to coupling for intensity, and is similar, to that of a number of pumps discharging water into a common main. This disposition of the electric-producing apparatus has the important advantage that the reserve plant, to meet contingencies, needs to be but a fraction of the total one; while, if each machine supplied an independent circuit, the plant would have to be in duplicate. As is well known, the steam-engines driving the dynamos are coupled directly to the machines, without the intervention of belts or gearing, the combination being termed the steam-dynamo.

The street-mains consist of wrought-iron tubes about two inches in diameter, containing two half-round copper rods imbedded in an insulating resinous cement. A main of this kind is carried continuously around each city block. At the intersections of the streets the conductors are brought together and joined to a main somewhat larger, termed a feeder, which supplies the current to these four blocks. It will thus be seen that the system of mains and the mode of production of the electricity are as readily capable of expansion to meet increased business as in the case of gas. The mains can be tapped anywhere for new consumers, and to meet this increased demand it is only necessary to run a feeder to the place of enlarged consumption, and increase the producing plant sufficiently.

What, then, will be the cost of such an electric plant to do the same amount of lighting as the above gas plant? If we take eight sixteen-candle lamps, maintained throughout the whole system for each actual horse-power applied to the dynamo-machine, engines with a normal capacity of five thousand horse-power will be required to sustain the maximum number of burners. This will include the re-