ITis not a unique situation that is pictured in the accompanying photographs: A water power once in active use, for mill purposes, is now abandoned because the business has moved to a city offering closer markets and better facilities for obtaining mill workers, while the farmers in the immediate vicinity, who would benefit immeasurably by the utilization of this energy were it transformed into electricity and delivered direct to their farms, allow it to run to waste. If this is the way opportunities are neglected is it any wonder that the country youth leaves for the city where life is more progressive and agreeable? The solution of the rural labor problem lies in making the farm an industrial establishment where head work as well as band work will be in demand, where the help will find pleasure in their employment because of improved conditions that are at least as healthy ane! agreeable as can be found in the cities. With a natural power at hand, such as these photographs show, a co-operative electric plant may be organized and sufficient energy developed to light the buildings and supply the power for a dozen farms. The methods by which this may be done have been known so long as to insure their practicability. Almost all farmers could use electricity to advantage, were a satisfactory supply available, but few would have sufficient demand to justify its introduction for their particular cases alone. Unfortunately many men are farming without any spare resources; and of them, no immediate improvements must be expected. This class seems larger than it is in reality, for the American farmer too often cares little for appearance, which accounts for the popular idea that farming must be all work and no play. There is, however, a distinct class of men in any farming section, as in the cities, who look kindly upon co-operative effort for general betterment. These are the men we must depend upon to organize our farmers water-power electric station. Located, as this old mill property is, in the center of a farming section having a tillable soil of average fertility and surrounded with farms averaging from 300 to 500 acres each, on which stock raising, dairying or grain farming is carried on, we have as interesting an opportunity to practice conservation of natural resources as one could picture. Each farmer can advantageously use some power in and about the barns, and the more electrical power he can use, the less animal or man power will be required. Besides this, electridty will be needed fol lighting, a subject much neglected on the farm. Probably an average of 25 to 50 horse-power of electrical energy could be used regularly on each of these farms, making say an aggregate of 600 horse-power in all, a plant capacity which many rural town central stations would be pleased to possess. Why, therefore, should not farmers get together and equip this mill as a central station power plant of their own? The property has been abandoned and could be bought fo!' very little. Some would answer this by saying that “such matters are hard to arrange amicably, and the distances o'f transmission introduce difficulties." Such things are a matter of organizing only and the distance to which electric power can be transmitted is but a question of economy. The principal elements limiting this are two: the cost of power at the generating station, and the price which can be obtained for the delivered power. The difference between these two elements must cover the cost of transmission, the interest on the investment and the profit. The cost of transmission comprises the loss of power in transmission, the cost of opel· ating, the cost of maintenance and repair. The value of the sum total of the interest, which must be paid upon the investment, and the minimum profit which is considered satisfactory, will have much weight in determining the limiting distance of transmission. A low interest rate and a low rate of proft will, there', be conducive to long transmission, both of which factors would naturally be low in the case of a co-operative plant. Hence, it is reasonable to conclude that with a suitably selected system of distribution the transmission question would not introduce great difficulties. The water power here illustrated would prove quite equal to a development of 1,000 horse-power constant minimum supply, which would be an abundance for our purpose. Within a radius of ten miles, this plant as a center, a rich and only partially developed farming country lies on all sides. To reach the most extreme point of this area, therefore, with electric service and without excessive transmission loss, suggests an economical initial potential of from 6,000 to 10,000 volts. The questions of transmission and distribution line, right of way and fOnItruction are matters that shoulr bf” carefully worked out and we wUI not attempt here to discuss these in detail, except to say that beUer examples are found in our western practice or in foreign countries than in the construction so carelessly erected by many eastern electric service companies, which, fortunately, is now gradually being replaced. Where electric current is to be carried on overhead (Continued on page 196.) Convert Abandoned Mills into Electric Power Plants (Continued [rom paye 181,.) wires at a high voltage over an extended area there is little difference from a point of view of risk to life between one high voltage and another. Only the best of construction should be used and proper provision for safety must be observed. This is not always the case with distribution systems having a voltage of about 2,000, and for that reason a voltage of 10,000 volts has an added advantage. With a co-operative system the farmer can erect much of the line work himself, thus accomplishing a saving. Poles may be prepared in the winter time when work is not heavy. In some of the newer transmission installations, concrete poles are used with success and improvement in appearance. They are about 35 feet high, tapering from 15 inches in diameter at the base to 6 inches at the top, reinforced throughout with steel rods. Such poles can be made at home at any convenient time of year. With a high voltage system and proper line construction the poles ought to be spaced not less than :200 feet apart and should take the most direct route from the source of electric supply to the point at which current is to be used. The immediate land over which the line passes should be assigned as a permanent right of way, proper provision for legally doing this and protection from malicious or meddlesome persons being made. The cost outlay in constructing such a distribution system would be found remarkably small if the farmer should make and haul all poles and cross arms and supply the rough labor for setting poles and stringing wires. The actual expenditures would, therefore, be only in purchasing wire, insulators, guys, etc., that could not be had on the ground. The number and size of transformers and meters would vary according to the individual demand and local conditions. These, however, each one should buy himself in the same manner that he would electric motors and lamps. With such a system, all purchasing should be taken care of co-operatively, thus insuring to the individuals the benefit of quantity prices. In conjunction with the power plant a creamery, laundry and grist mill could be equipped and operated at very little extra expense, as the buildings and power available would prove ample for this. The total cost of the undertaking, as here outlined, including power plant and line construction, would be in the neighborhood of $30,000, to be borne by twelve subscribers, thus each must contribute the equivalent of $2,500 cash. Certainly a successful farmer having upward of 300 acres should be able to muster this amount, if the investment will result in economy and safety. The cost of operating a water power plant is naturally small, and it consists merely of the interest and depreciation charges, and the salary of one or possibly two men in attendance. If the plant is to give day and night service, then two men will be required, otherwise one is all that is necessary. The farmers' need for lighting during the early hours of the morning and the canvenience of having current for this purpose at any time of night or day makes it a better equipment to have two men available for duty. The total salaries on this basis would approximate $2,000 per annum, and with 5 per cent interest and a like amount to cover depreciation and maintenance of the entire equipment, we have a total yearly cost of $5,000. In regard to the amount of electricity that each farmer would be likely to use with a total equipment averaging in capacity the equivalent of 50 electrical horse-power, we are safe in assuming a load factor of five to ten per cent for eight hours per day. Taking the lower figure, this represents 20 horse-power hours per day for each ef the twelve farmers, for which a rate of 10 cents per electrical horsepower hour would be a proper charge for the subscribers to pay for their service. This WOUld, therefore, provide a minimum yearly income of $6,000, assuming that this average amount of electricity is consumed for 200 days each year. Hence, on the basis of this somewhat over.conservative estimate, there would be sufficient yearly return to pay the cost of full operation and insure a 20 per cent margin for profit. The plant discussed lS of suffiCIent capacIty to take care of the maximum demands of all the subscribers at any one time, and as two power units would be installed of equal size, either one would have capacity for the a verage demands. This outline of a real practical opportunity for farm betterment is only typical of several that the writers themselves have observed, and, doubtless, there are hundreds of small water falls of this character available if we but look for them_ To be sure it is hardly to be expected that the farmer as such is going to un-ravel the mysteries or details of a problem of this kind alone, but we shall expect his interest and foresight in recognizing the merit of such a scheme, and, once finding out its practicability, mastering the situation by so organizing that it may be successfully carried out. The manufacturer finds capital and skilled assistants to convert his new ideas into practical commercial form, and the farmer to be successful must follow the same course.
This article was originally published with the title "Convert Abandoned Mills into Electric Power Plants" in Scientific American 105, 9, 184 (August 1911)