Transmission of power in Utah


Publication: The Salt Lake Herald

Salt Lake City, UT, United States
vol. 29, no. 210, p. 24, col. 1-7

Utah Leads in Transmission of Power.

Seven Million Dollars Invested in Power Plants That Can Transmit 14,000 Horse Power to Mines and Other Industries Many Miles Away.

With five gigantic high tension power plants operating within a radius of forty miles and the mystic electric wires threading the streets of the city in all directions Salt Lake would be justified in discarding the ancient pseudonym of Zion and reveling in the practical title of the Electric City of the West.

As a state Utah is abreast of the electrical wave that has swept the entire western country since the introduction of the long distance transmission plant and far the number of big power producing enterprises within a limited area she is the leader of the world. The topographical features of the portion of the state In which these power plants are situated is such as to produce innumerable cascades and waterfalls and it has long been recognized as one of the most attractive fields for the installation of power furnishing enterprises. The Wasatch mountain range extends in a north and south direction practically through the center of the state. In this range is stored up the snow which provides the water during the dry summer season that is used for irrigating and other purposes. The chief streams flowing from the Wasatch range into the Great Salt lake are commencing from the north the Bear river the Ogden river, the Weber river, the Big Cottonwood creek, and the Provo river. Besides these there is the Jordan river through which the waters of Utah lake are emptied into the Great Salt lake. All the streams from the Wasatch range flow through narrow rocky canyons with a very rapid fall to the valley and have for a long time been tempting to hydraulic engineers.

The first power company to get after the wily and noisy unit of gravitating water was the Big Cottonwood. R. M. Jones had his engineers design a set of harness, and in June 1896, he sent his first current at a pressure of 10,000 volts on its way into Salt Lake over a distance of fifteen miles.

Following this though planned earlier came the undertaking of the Pioneer Electric Power company In the Ogden canyon thirty-seven miles of transmission into Salt Lake.

In the same year the Utah Power company erected a water power plant in the Big Cottonwood canyon for transmitting electrical energy at a pressure of 15,000 volts for operating the Salt Lake City railroad company's cars.

In the spring of 1899 the Telluride Power company installed a plant In the Provo canyon for transmitting electrical energy at a pressure of 40,000 volts to the mining camp at Mercur, thirty-four miles away.

In March 1899, another water power plant was erected on the Jordan river at a point about twenty miles south of the city, and it is now delivering energy for operating and lighting purposes to the mining districts of Bingham and Mercur, about sixteen mile distant.


Capital Invested


Business men and the mining operators of Utah have realized for years that thousands of horse-power of priceless energy were going to waste In the streams and waterfalls that pursue their restless course through the canyons. They realized the probability of the development of the water power sources, and the concentration of the wayward units of energy, and as soon as the possibility of electrical transmission was demonstrated by experiment to be not only practicable but commercially practical they set to work in earnest to place Utah In the foremost rank of power transmission states, a position that she has always held. With keen far-sightedness they invited the most prominent and efficient engineers in the profession to set to work constructing the harness and later on to turn loose the mighty new found force into mining camps, smelters, towns and cities.

Besides the five long distance transmission plants referred to above there are innumerable isolated steam and water power plants scattered through out the length and breadth of the state, and every town of importance in the state Is lighted either by Its local steam plant or by current from one of the long distance transmission lines.

A conservative estimate of the amount of capital invested in the electrical enterprises of the state is $7,000,000. This is exclusive of the bonded indebtedness, which amounts to several millions more.


Harnessing the Water Powers


For untold ages the energy stored up In the drops of water that have gone rushing through the mountain fastnesses and over cascades have had no other object in life than the adding of their quota to the mighty ocean creating deafening noises and furnishing four for elaborate thought to hysterical poets. Now instead of kicking up their heels in idleness and wandering at large through gorge and canyon these fiery young colts of water power units have been lassoed by the lariat of genius weaned from their old ways broken to the harness of the workaday world, and are now engaged In the pastime of transforming their coltish antics into steady going and dependable horse powers.

It is estimated that a sufficient quantity of these water power units have been enslaved by the different plants in the state to aggregate a total of 14,000 horse power, most of which has been contracted for and Is being delivered today to the street railway and lighting companies and individual lower consumer In this city and Ogden the smelters at Murray and the mines at Bingham, Tintic, Park City and Mercur. This total of 14,000 horse power is the minimum estimated out-put, and is based on the present electrical installation and the amount of water in the canyons during the dry season. During the time of rains and melting snows there is enough energy at the sites of the present plants to bring this total close to 50,000 horse power.

The wires transmitting this energy stretch In all directions within a radius of seventy-five miles of Salt Lake. The longest line is that extending between the Pioneer plant in the Ogden canyon to the sub-station in this city about thirty-seven miles and the shortest that from the Big Cottonwood canyon about twelve miles. The Telluride plant in the Provo canyon sends out a current across the mountains to Mercur, thirty-four miles distant at the extremely high pressure of 40,000 volts. The aggregate length of the transmission lines of all the plants in the state is in the neighborhood of 150 miles.


Coupling Plants Together


In a great many respects Utah has led the allied electrical industries and the plant in the canyon at Ogden is considered by electrical experts as one of the best equipped and most progressive feats of electrical engineering the world over. A number of original experiments have had their initial trial in this state, and the engineers in charge of the different plants have been quick to introduce the latest improvement a soon a their practicability has been assured.

Last fall one of the mot interesting experiments of an electrical nature that was ever undertaken was carried to a successful completion by Engineer Hayward of the Union Light & Power company of this city. Similar experiments had been made on a smaller scale but the one consummated marked a new era in the coupling together of gigantic high tension power plants.

It was the connecting together of the two big plants in the Big Cottonwood canyon at the period of low water so as to enable them to furnish collectively sufficient current to feed the street railway lines of this city. It was undertaking that could not have been handled before from the theoretical side because no results of previous experiments were at hand to consult.

Since the completion of that test the Ogden plant has been couple to the other two, and at present the three plants are hitched together in multiple to supply the ever-increasing demand for electrical power coming from the consumers in this city and the smelters at Sandy.


Industry Revolutionized


The achievement of these no less magnificent than marvelous feats of engineering has been far reaching in its effects. Thousands of street arc lamps shed their effulgent rays on millonaire and beggar alike, the terrors of night have been dispelled and no one cares a fiddle whether the morning stars sing together or seek shelter below the horizon. Coming home from the club in the wee small hours, we are spared falling over misplaced furniture in the hunt for the elusive match we literally press the button and the tumbling waters in the bleak canyon forty miles away do the rest.

In the laundries the operatives no longer kill time sitting around waiting for the sadirons to absorb calories from the lid-cracked stoves; instead, they have electric irons with a conscientious resistance coil attached to a wire fed by the far away cataract.

In the shops the fires have been drawn for eternity the engines and boilers have been shipped to the museum of antiquities The electric motor is turning the shafts operating the planers drills milling machines and lathes and the output is doubled at a big decrease In the expenses of running. There are no cylinder heads to blowout and extinguish the lives of those within striking distance; the coal bill has been framed and hung on the walls as a curiosity and the ash man has gone to other spheres of use-fulness.

The balky mule has been shipped to South Africa to try the patience of British muleteers and turn victory into defeat. The sight of him towing a Main street car is relegated to the memory of the oldest inhabitant. The broom stick train of Oliver Wendell Holmes construction now has the say fifty-horse-power motors turn the wheels and the suburbs are no longer situated half way between Salt Lake and Ogden. The uncanny fluid is always on hand and when the motorman turns the controller the impatient conveyance starts forward with a jump that furnishes everybody with a seat. At a thirty-mile an hour clip we are whisked to our destinations to find the house aglow with sixteen-candle-power lamps and that autocrat, the cook, good natured in the prospect of being made the engineer of an electric stove.

In the high buildings we have electric elevator that go up and down like meteors, and in our offices we have fan motors that blow our papers out of the windows and endue us with redoubled energies on the most stifling of summer days. In the newspaper offices the ravenous printing presses and linotype machines are fed by the electric current the light from the electric lamps inspires while it illuminates the anxious countenances and exaggerates the furrows of care that are possessed all too soon by the managers, editors and reporters. The office cats fur is always on end as she radiates magnetism from the tip of her inquisitive nose to the end of her ink-stained tail.

It is no figure of speech to say that the subtle electric fluid is playing the cat and banjo with the forces of the devil himself. We find men who are wont to scoff at preachers crowding the churches to hear thrilling music from the organs. They will sit the sermon through its tiresome length to catch Intermittent strains from the deep-throated pipe unconscious perhaps that the bellows are worked by electric motors and the vibrations emanating from the pipes owe their bring to the action of the forces of gravity in a can on miles canyon many miles away.

The total amount of electrical horse-power delivered and consumed in Salt Lake City ever day is about 5,500. Of this amount the Salt Lake Street Railway company consumes 750-horse-power arc lights 1,000-horse-power incandescent lights 2,000-horse-power and other consumers l,800-horse-power.


At the Mines


Outside of the city it is in the great mining districts that this long latent force has been extensively introduced. The owners and operators in the districts containing the towns of Tintic, Mercur and Bingham took in the situation Immediately after the installation of the first plant in the Big Cottonwood canyon and by great and continually increasing demands for an easily operated and controlled power created the plants now situated at Provo and the Jordan narrows.

In the mines and smelters a great amount of power is used and required, and partly on account of the fact that coal is expensive and water often impossible to obtain, and also that very little capital has been invested in steam power, the application of electricity has made very rapid progress I is some what remarkable that four years after the starting of the first waterpower transmission plant in the state there is practically no undertaking of any consequence that is not already equipped with electrical machinery or getting ready for equipment in the near future.

Bingham and Mercur are the most extensive users of electrical energy today, and so popular is the new force that steam power has been almost banished to the region of the has beens. The freezing and thawing of pipes containing condensed stem is classified with the lost arts the sticking and rusting of valves has ceased forever flexible conductors have usurped the place of leaky jointed and rigid pipes and the non-arrival of the coal train causes no comment. Away up on the top of a hill the electric motor takes up its sixteen square feet of space, and does twice the work that the engine it was impossible to put on the hill could have done.

At Bingham both the Telluride and Jordan Narrows plants find a hungry market for their products. The energy is transmitted over mountain ranges across rivers and plan at high voltage age and is turned into transformers and ten fed to the hoists, ventilators, air compressors, rock breakers, stamp mills and lights; and in the amalgamating mills it Is used for turning the pans and running the cup elevator. In the concentrators It works the rock breaker jigs and slime tables.

What has been mid of Bingham apples with equal force to Mercur, and as soon as the lines that are projected to run from the Telluride plant to Tintic and Eureka districts are finished the same conditions will prevail at those place.

The installation of the electric energy has simplified and revolutionized the entire mining industry of the state and by the use of electric drills, worked under the daylight-like glare of electric lamps hundreds of feet below the surface, the operatives labor with far greater comfort and to increase the output of the mine and their wages considerably in excess of the prevailing output and wages four years ago. Among the mines at 3lercur using the product of the Jordan Narrows plant are the Sacramento and Overland and among those using the Telluride energy may be cited the Chloride Point and Mercur. At Bingham all the mines controlled by the United States Mining company are operated by the unit transmitted from the region of the rushing waters.

In addition to these consumers of electrical horse-power the plants In the Big Cottonwood canyon are furnishing 400-horse-power to the smelters at Sandy. It is used for driving the blowers and roasters and is transmitted through aluminum wires.


The Pioneer Plant


With an annual rainfall that will probably average between twenty-five and thirty inches, and a drainage area of about 360 square miles, the river flowing down the Ogden canyon is of such proportion and the topography of its course is of such character that it affords an abundant water power which has been recognized as of great value for many years. The slope of the stream In the upper vale is gradual while In the six miles of the canyon there is a total fall of nearly 500 feet. The Ogden canyon is a narrow, winding gorge, walled in by precipitous mountains, and possessing a grandeur that is surpassed by few other portions of the Rocky mountains. The flow of the river varies great in different seasons In May and June when the snow on the mountains If melting a maximum flow of 4,800 cubic feet per second has been measured, while n minimum of eighty cubic feet per second is the record for August and September. Under the supervision of C. K. Bannister as chief engineer, preliminary surveys for this plant were made In 1894 and 1895, but not until the beginning of 1896 were the plans of definite location and the actual construction of the work commenced.

The plans of the Company contemplate the ultimate utilization of the entire flow of the river, to accomplish which to the best advantage will necessitate the construction of a large storage dam and reservoir at the upper end of the canyon, and this storage feature forms the only portion of the system that Is not yet complete. At present a small crib dam with temporary head work has been built a short distance above the site of the large dam which gives the necessary head for filling the pipe, but does net provide for any considerable storage of water.

The permanent storage reservoir, when completed will cover an area of about 2,000 acres and will have a capacity of nearly 15,000,000,000 gallons. A nine-inch tunnel has been excavated through the solid rock around the south abutment of the dam which, at ordinary stages of the river, will be the sole outlet for the water in the reservoir. About 100 feet below the tunnel, and connected to it by a rivotted steel pipe eight and one-half feet in diameter the main gate house is placed. The main conduit is a pipe line with an internal diameter of six feet. Its total length Is 31,600 feet, of which 27,000 feet consist of wooden stave pipe, and the last 4,600 feet, at the lower end, of rivetted steel piping. There are eight tunnels in the rock, the longest of which is 667 feet, also eight steel bridges, with a total length of 560 feet, besides a timber trestle. The maximum hydrostatic head on the wooden pipe is 117 feet, giving a pressure of fifty pounds per square inch. Steel pipe is use at the lower end of the conduit far pressures exceeding fifty pounds per square inch.

The pipe line divides into two branches at the power house, delivering into steel receivers laid on either side of the building. These receivers are six feet In diameter and are each provided with five two-foot delivery pipes leading into the power house to the main water wheels, and one fourteen-inch pipe for the excite wheels. The plant is designed for ten 1,000 horse-power water wheels and generators, five on each side of the building. Only five on these are installed at present.

The transmission line is thirty-seven miles long and consists of two circuits of three No. 1 B. & S. bare copper wires. The current reaches this city at a potential of 13,800 volts, and is reduced to the original 2,300 for local distribution.

One of the most interesting features of this plant is the immense seventy-two-inch valve placed at an elbow of the steel pipe line about 100 feet from the junction with the wooden conduit. This valve measures eight feet in height, and four feet from face to face of flanges and Is twenty-four and one half feet In length I had a total weight of 52,000 pounds and twenty-four horses were required to move its heaviest piece.


Big Cottonwood Power Plant


The Big Cottonwood canyon debouches on the Salt Lake valley at a point about twelve miles southeast of the city. It is about sixteen miles long and at its lower end is a steep and narrow gorge between precipices of quartzite rock rising from 4,000 to 5,000 feet above the stream. The creek is fed by the melting snows and springs from the surrounding peaks, which rise to an elevation of from 10,000 to 12,000 feet above the sea level. At the head of the canyon about 9,000 feet above the sea level are several small lakes set in granite basins.

The water for the Big Cottonwood Power company's works is diverted from the stream at a point about three miles from the mouth of the canyon into a small reservoir. From this reservoir it is conveyed in a four-foot steel pipe through a tunnel about 500 feet long, and thence down steep slopes to the power house. The total head is 380 feet. The pipe delivers into a receiver four feet in diameter from which the water passes through curved cast iron pipes to the nozzles of the Pelton water wheels. There are six water wheels, four of 600-horse power, each driving the main generators, and two smaller ones for driving the exciting current dynamos.

The transmission line is fourteen miles long. The first four miles is built over a rough mountain country; the remainder is built along the county road The line as originally built consisted of four circuits of three No. 2 B. & S. bare copper wires supported on porcelain insulators.


Utah Power Company's Plant


The water for this plant Js diverted by a small wooden dam placed in the bed of the stream just below the Big Cottonwood company's tailrace. It is conducted through a wooden flume five feet wide by three feet deep a distance of one and three-fourth miles, and delivered into a four-foot rivetted steel pressure pipe which conveys it to the receiver at the power house.

The steel pipe has a total fall of 450 feet.

The present installation consists of two Pelton water wheels made to deliver 1,000-horse power on the shaft at 300 revolutions per minute. %%The transmission line is about twelve miles long, and consists of three No. 2 B. & Ss bare copper wires. The power is delivered to the substation on Brigham street, where there are transformers for converting the three phase high tension current to low tension two-phase in which form I is delivered to two 300-kilowatt rotary transformers, and by them transformed into a 550-volt direct current for use by the Salt Lake City street Railway company. The total capacity of output in kilowatts of the Brigham street transforming station is rated at 800, which Is equivalent to about 1,070 mechanical horse power.


Telluride Plant


The Telluride plant is situated in the Provo canyon, a long and narrow defile between limestone mountains. This plant is not a large one, but it is remarkable in that it is operated at the highest voltage yet put to commercial use. The first plant built by this company was at Telluride, Colo. and it was there that much of the pioneer long distance transmission engineering work in this country was performed. The present plant in the Provo canyon Is temporary only, and plans are now being drawn whereby it will be considerably increased in size and capacity of output.

The water is diverted by means of a timber and rock crib dam about sixteen feet high into a half-round wooden Sterling flume, built on the same principles as a wooden stave pipe. This flume is about one mile long and delivers into a wooden stave pipe four feet In diameter, through which the water is conveyed to a 1,000-horse-power Lefell double discharge horizontal turbine under a head of 125 feet. The line is thirty-four miles long and runs over an open country, part of it crossing a mountain range. The energy is delivered to a set of oil cooled transformers at Mercur, where it is used to drive a large installation of two phase 200-volt motors at the great mill of the De Lamar Mercur gold mines.


The Jordan Narrows Plant


The Jordan river drains the surplus water from the Utah lake into the Great Salt lake. At a point known the Jordan Narrows, situated about twenty miles to the south of the city, it passes through some low his with a considerable fall. The water is delivered from the river to the power house through a canal about 11,000 feet long having a capacity of flow of nearly 1,000 feet per second. Just above the power house the water is delivered from a forebay into four six-foot steel pipes, each about 300 feet long, which convey it to four double horizontal turbine wheels in the power house. There are four generators mounted directly on the extended shaft of the water wheel. The transmission lines lead from the power house; one running south to the mining camp of Mercur is about fifteen miles long; the other, about twelve miles long, runs west to the mining camp of Bingham. Each line consists or a single circuit of No. 2 B. & S. bare copper wire mounted on porcelain insulators. The plant is now delivering power for lighting and operating mining machinery at both Mecur and Bingham.


Hercules Electric Power Company


This plant is situated in Logan canyon, about three and one-half miles east of the city. It is the outgrowth of local enterprise but the management has lately passed into the control of outside parties. I was installed two ear ago and the total output at present is abut 400-horse-power, but it is the intention to begin as early as possible In the ring and remodel it upon lines designed by the officials of the company. A new flume will be built and a large horizontal turbine wheel installed that will double the present horse-power output; these improvements will necessitate an outlay of about $25,000. All of the additional output for has already been contracted for.


Plant at Hyrum


Another company of which John F. Wright is president, is located at Hyrum. This plant was installed two years ago in Hyrum City, and furnishes lights for street and house illumination. Recently, Joseph Howell of Wellsville has become interested in the enterprise, and it is the intention of the company to increase the output and transmit the energy to Wellsville for light and power purposes. In order to do this the company is building a flume and will erect a power house at the mouth of the Blacksmith Fork canyon, where there is an abundance of energy in the shape of rushing water ready to be harnessed.


Utah County Light & Power Co.


The General Electric company has completed a set of plans for a plant for the above named company that will be installed in the American Fork canyon during the coming spring. The water power will be obtained from the canyon stream and conveyed in a wooden flume three feet in diameter and 8,500 feet long, having a total vertical fall of 130 feet, to a steel pipe 325 feet long, three feet in diameter, and having a total vertical fall of 162 feet, or inclining at an angle of about 30 degrees. The total hydrostatic head will be almost 300 feet, which will be equivalent to a pressure of 125 pounds to the sure inch at the power house. The water will flow at the rate of 1,800 cubic feet per minute or thirty cubic feet per second, and will impinge the two impulse water wheels, of 400-horse-power each, with an energy equal to 800-horse-power.

The electrical equivalent will consist of two 250 kilowatt three phase, alternators of sixty cycles at 300 revolutions per minute generating an initial voltage of 2,300. This will be increased to 10,000 volts by step-up transformers arranged in delta, and transmitted for lighting and power purposes to American Fork Lehi and Pleasant Grove.


Ontario Silver Mining Company

Six and one-half miles from Park City is situated the drainage tunnel of the Ontario Mining company. The prodigal units of energy have been returned to the fold of industry by drastic persuasion and are now engaged in the pastime of turning a water wheel that is belted to a seventy-five kilowatt three phase sixty cycle 2,300-volt generator. The energy is then sent out over a line six and one-half miles in length to Park City, where it is stepped down to 115 volts and used to light the streets of the city, the interior of the mines and to turn the machinery used in operating the two mills of the company.


Plant at Lagoon


A duplicate to the two Cache valley plants is to be found at Lagoon where it is used during the summer months to furnish a current for the arc and incandescent lamps. The water power is obtained from the Farmington canyon and is carried through an open ditch 1,300 feet long 200 feet of which Is cut through the solid rock. This is turned into a wooden flume 250 feet long and by that conveyed to a sixteen-inch steel pipe 620 feet long. During the past summer ten arc and 300 incandescent lamps were operated. This spring the number of incandescent lamps will be doubled.

In the case of the Utah transmission plants the average loss of energy by friction and leakage during its journey across the intervening country is calculated at about 10 per cent. In addition to this there is a further loss of 5 percent in the transformers.


Keywords:Power Transmission : Utah
Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Elton Gish
Date completed:August 21, 2011 by: Elton Gish;