Holborn Viaduct power station, named the Edison Electric Light Station, was the world's first coal-fired power station, generating electricity for public use. It was built at number 57, Holborn Viaduct in London, by Thomas Edison's Edison Electric Light Company.
The plant began running on 12 January 1882, three years after the invention of the carbon-filament incandescent light bulb. It burnt coal to drive a steam turbine which drove a 27-tonne (27-long-ton; 30-short-ton), 125 horsepower (93 kW) generator which produced direct current (DC) at 110 volts. It initially lit 968 16-candle incandescent lamps to provide street lighting from Holborn Circus to St. Martin's Le Grand, which was later expanded to 3,000 lamps. The power station also provided electricity for private residences, which may have included Ely Place. Having run at a significant loss the station closed in September 1886, and the lamps were converted back to gas.
In 1878, the City of London Corporation had installed 16 electric arc lamps over the viaduct, but the experiment was discontinued within six months, and the bridge returned to gas lighting. The Victoria Embankment was lit with electric lamps at around the same time, using the Yablochkov candles demonstrated at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1878.
The Holborn Viaduct project was preceded by two months by an electricity supply from a water wheel in Godalming, Surrey – the world's first public electricity supply. This hydroelectric project was on a much smaller scale, however, with a 10 horsepower (7.5 kW) generator running 4 arc lamps and 27 incandescent lamps.
Location and technical specification
Lacking the legal precedent to lay underground cables (digging the street was the sole prerogative of the gas companies), Edison's associate Edward Hibberd Johnson discovered culverts existed on the Holborn Viaduct which would allow for electrical cables to be laid.
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