Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/493

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

to contract to transmit any amount of power one hundred and fifty miles with a total loss on the line, due to fall of voltage, or "drop," and leakage, of not more than twenty-five per cent, and this without being too extravagant of copper. The voltage on such a line would be, however, much more than that referred to above—probably twenty-five thousand volts.

The distance from the Scotch side of the proposed line to London by air line is three hundred and sixty-five miles, and it is only reasonable to expect that the first decade of the twentieth century will see things so perfected as to admit of transmission over this distance of any desired amount of power. As it is, the great power-consuming counties of York and Lancashire, particularly the former, would to-day be accessible from the proposed power generators.

If we glance at the ultimate results of all this, we shall see them to be enormously far reaching. The limit to Britain's commercial greatness may be set, as things are now, at the giving out of her coal mines. These are not by any means inexhaustible, and the drain upon them is something awful. The amount used in generating power alone is annually in the scores of millions of tons, and this is over and above what is used for house-heating, cooking, etc.

Suppose now that there comes from the north an inexhaustible supply of electric energy—inexhaustible, that is, as regards the driving power it draws on, and limited in practice only by whether one is willing to pay the moderate price that its generation, transmission, transformation, etc., cost—we should have here a solution of the whole question of the future of the coal fields. The electrical power would be sufficiently cheap for general use, and in the great textile manufacturing districts the hum of the hundreds of thousands of cotton and woolen spindles would be supplemented by the lower note of the driving motors. Electric heating for culinary purposes is pre-eminently satisfactory, not only for its cheapness, since one can use the heat just where it is needed and avoid the waste of ninety-five per cent of the heat employed due to hot air going up the chimney of a cooking range and to radiation to an already overhot kitchen, but also on account of its entire cleanliness and reliability. If the price of coal should go up at all seriously, due to prolonged strikes, or to other causes, it would pay to use electricity for even house and store heating. In the vast iron-smelting industry it could be applied to at least greatly reduce the amount of fuel at present used. The only important place where it could not certainly pretty well displace coal would be in seagoing vessels, for they can not now, and probably never will be able to, navigate the ocean on the trolley principle, and it has to be said that it looks more like the job