First dammed river to produce electricity

Photo obtained A view of the Fox River Dam, where the Vulcan Power Plant, the first power plant to use hydroelectricity, was located in 1882.

Photo obtained
A view of the Fox River Dam, where the Vulcan Power Plant, the first power plant to produce hydroelectricity, was located in 1882.

James Walls
Campus News Editor

When people consider such things as alternative energies, they don’t normally think of energy that has been around since before the industrial revolution. However, with hydro-power, the process itself has in fact been around for centuries. Therefore, in order to know more about this alternative energy that preceded most others, one must first learn of its original uses and how it came to produce electricity.

Hydro-power in the early stages

Hydro-power was not originally used to produce electricity. In ancient Rome, water turbines were used to grind grains for flour and bread, while water mills also used hydro-power to do such things as cutting lumber and creating fires to make steel. In my opinion, the thought of using water to make fire seems rather odd, but if it works, then why argue it? All in all, though, these uses would soon lead to a major advancement in the town of Appleton, Wisconsin.

It was in 1882 when H.J. Rogers would first use hydro-power to produce electricity. Using the Fox River Dam in Appleton, Wisconsin, he created enough energy to light his paper manufacturing plant, his home, and another nearby building. And while inspired by Thomas Edison’s steam-powered plant in New York, the plant which Rogers started was powered naturally, using only the Fox River itself to produce its energy.

Hydro-power today

Now, with constantly advancing technology, hydroelectric devices produce much more electricity than they did in 1882, but unfortunately it truly is an alternative energy. With modern-day consumers favoring fossil-fuels over renewable energies, this great technology has a limited fan base, at least in the United States, anyway.

However, according to the National Geographic Education website, places such as Norway, Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo get almost 90% of their electricity from hydro-power. So, maybe it’s time we start thinking more like these countries and look to the alternatives. After all, it is not too late to think green.