Electricity has always been present in the history of mankind, since it is the same natural phenomenon as fire. It was discovered quite a long time ago and in the human mind was closely associated with another natural phenomenon – magnetism.

Before the industrial revolution

How electricity was conquered: from lightning to GOELRO
Otto von Guericke

As early as 1672 a German physicist Otto von Guericke He built an electric machine that functions from friction: he rubbed a ball of sulfur with his hands, and the resulting electric charge made it glow in the dark.

Since 1752, thanks to the experiment Benjamin Franklin with a kite flying in a thunderstorm, we know that lightning is nothing but natural electricity.

A little later, in 1772, Alessandro Volta designed the first battery, where electricity was generated by a chemical reaction. The unit of measurement for voltage is named after him.

Another half century later André-Marie Ampère explored the relationship between magnetism and electricity. The unit of measurement of current strength is named after this scientist.

The era of the industrial revolution

How electricity was conquered: from lightning to GOELRO
modern lamp

With the advent of the industrial revolution, electricity began to be used in everyday life, however, at first only for street lighting. The founder of street electric lighting was a Russian scientist Pavel Yablochkov, who invented a successful modification of the carbon arc lamp. It was presented in 1878 at the World Exhibition in Paris and was called “Yablochkov’s candles”. Subsequently, this invention, however, very modified, served to illuminate the central streets of European capitals and major attractions. Newspaper headlines at that time were: “Light comes from Russia”, “Russia – the cradle of electricity.” Pavel Yablochkov also invented and patented a transformer and a generator. After Joseph Wilson Swan In the same 1878, he invented the electric light bulb; electric light also came to private homes.

How electricity was conquered: from lightning to GOELRO
Pavel Yablochkov and his lamp

A pioneer in the field of electrification and the use of electricity to control machines was Werner von Siemens. His patent for a dynamo was registered in 1866. Without this machine, the electric motor would hardly ever have been developed.

However, at that time there was not yet an extensive energy system. In addition, direct current was still used, not alternating current, as is the case today.

Direct current gives way to alternating current

Back in 1881, one invention made it possible for the first time to transport electricity over long distances: the transformer. Even earlier, in 1876, the Russian scientist-inventor Alexander Lodygin patented in many countries (but not in America) the incandescent lamp familiar today.

How electricity was conquered: from lightning to GOELRO
Thomas Edison and his lamp

All these inventions were collected and optimized by an American Thomas Edison. And in 1880, he patented his own incandescent lamps and even kept power plants for his local DC networks.

Entrepreneur George Westinghouse, Edison’s rival, built an alternating current network in 1886. However, he did not have a patent for the production of light bulbs. He patented his own invention, offering only licensed light bulbs for his chain.

At first, fate did not favor Westinghouse’s undertakings. During a blizzard in 1888 in New York, a tragic accident occurred due to damage to high-voltage power lines. After this event, the issue of electrical safety began to be actively discussed, and the current gained notoriety.

In the same year, the death penalty was carried out in New York for the first time using the electric chair, which gave impetus to the development of one of Edison’s companies. However, Westinghouse did not give up, but continued to resist. Finally, he was commissioned to provide electricity for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Alternating current as a source of electricity was finally established.

Electric way of Russia

How electricity was conquered: from lightning to GOELROBefore the First World War and the Revolution, the electrical development of Russia did not lag behind the West. However, despite their own inventions and the creation of thermal power plants and even hydroelectric power plants, in 1909 up to 85% of this sector worked at the expense of foreign investment. And although by the beginning of the war, due to the cooling of policy towards the West, many Western companies left the Russian electrical market, the share of European and American capital still exceeded 70%.

The revolution and the ensuing civil war plunged the country into economic ruin, and, of course, there were no funds for electrification, and there was no one to deal with it. However, the first economic plan adopted by the Bolsheviks in 1921 dealt specifically with electrification. It was the plan of GOELRO (State Commission for Electrification of Russia). It is traditionally believed that the authors of this plan were Lenin and Krzhizhanovsky, and more than 200 engineers from all over the country participated in the work of the commission, however, there are suggestions that the plan for the total electrification of Russia was developed much earlier, even before the First World War. In any case, GOELRO was a comprehensive plan for the development of the entire economy, within the framework of which enterprises were built to provide the electric power industry with everything they needed. In parallel, a plan for the development of territories was being implemented. For example, in 1927, the Stalingrad Tractor Plant was founded, which became not only a city-forming enterprise, but also provided transport for engineers working within the framework of GOELRO. Also during this period, the Kuznetsk coal basin was actively developed.

How electricity was conquered: from lightning to GOELRO
USSR electrification map

So, in 15 years, 30 regional power plants (20 TPPs and 10 HPPs) with a total capacity of 1.75 million kW were built. At the same time, economic zoning was carried out, and a transport and energy framework for the country’s territory was created. The GOERLO plan covered 8 main economic regions. At the same time, the country’s transport system was being developed.

This project laid the foundation for industrialization in Russia, and the plans were already exceeded by 1931. Electricity generation in 1932 compared to 1913 increased not by 4.5 times, as planned, but by almost 7 times: from 2.0 to 13.5 billion kWh.

Photo: manufacturing companies, pixabay.com, Wiki

Read also:

  • Free electricity: pedal and don’t pay for electricity
  • 5 tips to cut your electricity bill costs