The Ames Hydroelectric Generating Plant, located near Ophir, Colorado, was the world's first commercial system to produce and transmit alternating current (AC) electricity. It is now on the List of IEEE Milestones.
In the summer of 1890, Westinghouse Electric supplied the station's generator and motor. They were installed in the winter, and from Spring 1891 provided alternating current electricity that was transmitted 2.6 miles (4.2 km) to a motor-driven stamp mill at the Gold King Mine. The mill was at the time at risk of shutdown from lack of timber fuel for its existing steam mill. The AC power plant effort was financed by L.L. Nunn.
The generator is driven by a six-foot Pelton wheel under a 320-foot (98 m) head. Its 100 horsepower (75 kW) Westinghouse alternator was the largest then manufactured, generating electricity at 3000 volts, 133 Hertz, single-phase AC. Voltmeters and ammeters were of both the solenoid and gravity balance types. The transmission line was built from Western Union cross-arms with insulators carrying two bare copper wires. Total wire costs were about US $700, about 1% of the cost estimated for a direct-current line. The entire plant required 15 to 20 attendants for its continuous operation.
The alternating current was proven to be effective as it was transmitted two miles (3 km) at a loss of less than 5%.
The station was built during the "War of Currents" between Westinghouse and Thomas Edison as to whether alternating current or direct current electric power would prevail, and its success led to adoption of alternating current at much larger plants at Niagara Falls (Adams Power Plant in 1895) and its eventual dominance worldwide.
The Ames plant became part of the Nunn’s Telluride Power Company which would later become part of Western Colorado Power Company, formed as a wholly owned subsidiary of Utah Power and Light. Public Service Company acquired the plant with other Colorado Ute properties in 1992.
The 1905 power house is still in service for Public Service Company, a subsidiary of Xcel Energy., with two Pelton wheels powering a single 1904 General Electric generator, with output of 2,400 volts, and 1,082 amperes at a speed of 225 R.P.M.
Coordinates: 37°51′52.88″N 107°52′55.18″W / 37.8646889°N 107.8819944°W / 37.8646889; -107.8819944 (Ames Power Station)
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