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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Electrical Outlets, Part 2

Electricity is one of the fascinations of many young boys, along with fire, motors, cars, trains, and toy guns. But even a young person can easily intuit the special property of electricity. It can supply power and run things. In yesterday's story, I told of my early shocking experience with electricity.

Recently, rather than playing with electrical outlets, I decided to take my interest in electricity to the very top of the power chain and visit the Consolidated Edison power generation plant at 14th Street between Avenues C and D. This behemoth dominates the entire immediate area and can be seen from across the East River in Brooklyn and Queens.
As may be expected, neighborhood residents have not been pleased with the presence of the power plant. There have been allegations of pollution and protests. A settlement was reached in 2002, with Con Edison agreeing to a transition from oil to natural gas.

Con Edison has only a small number of power-generating plants in the five boroughs of New York City. This one, in the East Village, provides the majority of electrical power for lower Manhattan. Although power is supplied from outside the city (New York State, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) due to power grid design constraints, 80% of the power requirements for New York City must be satisfied within city limits. Power consumption here is, of course, enormous; added to the typical needs of any populace, power also needs to be provided for the large number of elevators and the city's extensive subway system.

Con Edison and New York city have a special legacy with electricity. On September 4, 1882, Thomas Edison opened his first central power-generating station at 257 Pearl Street. Only a few buildings were supplied with electricity (initially 59 customers), but the event demonstrated the viability of power generation and distribution.

The power we use and this Con Ed power plant are all daily reminders of our reliance on one of the world's most critical resources. I know Thomas Edison, like all inventors, had many trials and tribulations, but at least he didn't start with with his father's keys in an electrical outlet :)

Related Post: Big Allis


Anonymous said...

I love the way you take photos and your arrangement!

Steffe said...

A really cool electric triptych it is.

Anonymous said...

I don't know where you got that 80% number but if that generation station went offline there still would be enough megawatts to power that part of the grid. The bulk electric system in the north east is designed that the loss of one single generator will not cause any problems.

Brian said...

Brian - you take some very interesting pictures. I live in Essex Cty, NJ - but born and raised in Hudson County. Hudson County would be a prime spot for another photoblog like this.

I found your blog via my search for "Our Lady of Pompeii" Church in Manhattan. My mom's birth certificate is from this Church. But my mom was born earlier than 1928. I wonder - was there another smaller Church on the spot before the present building?

Brian Dubé said...

Anon - I am sure you are correct that there is enough power in the grid to support the loss of a generator. However, NYISO also requires that generating capacity equal to 80% of New York City’s projected peak demand be installed within the city limits (5 boroughs). see this link: