The New Power Age
C. L. SIBLEY
The other day I was talking with a man who had begun to worry about the future of his high school boy. “What career would you suggest?” he asked. Knowing the lad and his aptitudes, I replied, “If he were my boy I would have him trained as an electrical engineer.” He asked me why, and the flood of reasons that I gave him surprised even myself. I had no idea of the wealth of casual observations that I had gradually been accumulating on the importance of the electrical age to this country. Because I was so surprised at the picture of the new Canada that burst upon the vision of both of us as I spoke to him about the significance of the power age in Canada, I am going to transmit to paper in broad outline the argument that I advanced. If in doing so I can arouse in the reader svme of the enlightenment to which my listener confessed, then I shall have done my bit toward buttressing the faith of Canadians in the future of Canada.
THE greatest discovery of the age is distributable power. What do I mean by distributable power? Let me explain. When settlement began in Canada, power here, as elsewhere, was supplied mainly by human and animal labor. After the invention of the steam engine machines were driven by power generated by the burning of fuels. This power, however, had to be utilized on the spot where it was generated; it could be carried no farther than the end of a leather belt. That was the age of power in confinement.
was the age of power in confinement.
• Then electricity began to be used as a motive power. For a long time that also had the defect of steam-generated power; it could not be transmitted for any great distance. Because of this, industries had to be concentrated in the vicinity where power was produced. Hence the huge growth in every manufacturing country of towns and cities.
Beginning but a few years before the Great War, engineers have gradually perfected the means whereby electricity can be transmitted over longer and longer distances, and now we are living in days when power can be carried over great distances to any place where there
is work to be done, irrespective of the source of that power.
Put shortly, the situation is this: Yesterday we had to bring men and materials to power because power was confined to the length of leather belts; today we can take power to men and materials because power can be delivered at an instant’s notice hundreds of miles away from its source.
That is what I mean by distributable power, as contrasted with the power in confinement which was characteristic of the steam age. We are now at the dawning of the new age of distributable power, and wonders such as few of us have ever dreamed of are in the making. And because of the peculiar conditions which exist in Canada—our wealth of natural resource;:, our strategic position in relation to centres of consumption, the immense quantities of power available—distributable power is about to erect here in Canada, more rapidly perhaps than almost anywhere else, a new civilization. It is going to revolutionize our whole business and social life; bring happier, more prosperous conditions for all of us. Our entire industrial and social system will be
Feeling gloomy? Here’s a Christmas present in the shape of an article on the wonders the Tower Age has in store for Canada. Read it. You’ll be an optimist—with reason
made over in the next decade by the electrical engineer, working in a myriad avenues of activity.
That is why I see such a future for the Canadian boy who fits himself for the profession of electrical engineer.
An Economic Revolution in the Making
GETTING aside, for the moment, what distributable ^ power will do in making available natural resources in great regions of the Dominion hitherto remote from development, let us consider the making over of our industrial and social life, now under way. Something of what is happening is indicated by figures issued by the Department of the Interior, to the effect that in the twenty-six years from 1901 to 1927 the relative positions of water power and fuel power in Canada have been more than reversed. In 1901 the situation was: Power generated, water-power thirty-six per cent, fuel power sixty-three per cent. In 1927 the situation was: Power generated, water power seventy-nine per cent, fuel power twenty-one per cent.
Already the limitations of location and physical geography, which hitherto have been a severe handicap on Canada’s industrial development, have begun to disappear as the result of this transformation.
At one time handicrafts flourished in villages and small towns in the older sections of Canada. There were many small industries scattered throughout the countryside, using machinery directly geared to an ancient waterwheel or windmill. These gradually disappeared with the coming of the steam engine and railway, being put out of existence by the large scale factories in the greater towns. That was the first stage.
But the concentration of industries and consequently of population in cities, due to the confinement of power in the era from which we are beginning to emerge, has had and still has many disadvantages. Raw materials have had to be hauled long distances to power centres. Workmen have had to live in congested areas, and within these areas have had to be hauled back and forth in frantic haste by rapid transit systems. Food has had to be brought from great distances to feed the congested population. Immense problems connected with water supply and sewerage have had to be tackled. Cost of living in urban communities has been on an ever ascending scale. All these things, and many more, are reflected in the production costs of industry, because the massing of great populations on limited areas automatically creates conditions which must be overcome by the employment of a large percentage of the available power and human labor of great communities in solving problems which do not occur in less congested areas.
Great cities, of course, will always exist; but, looking into the future in the light of the new electrical age, this much, I think, can safely be deduced, namely, that in most countries the era of the trek from the land to the city has reached its zenith, and that henceforth population as it grows, here and elsewhere, will tend to be far more widely distributed over the land than at any time since the beginning of the 18th century when the factory system began to develop the cityward trek.
Such a conclusion is inevitable once one begins to realize the full meaning of distributable power. Consider what it will do for Canada. Now, for the first time in history, power in illimitable quantity can be taken to the primary wealth of farm, mine, and forest, instead of raw materials having to be taken to power or even exported to power.
Metals can be smelted, and even manufactured, where the ore is mined. Countless articles are manufactured from vegetable products. They can now be manufactured in the districts where those products can best be grown.
And where location in regard to raw materials does not count, another consideration, equally forcible, comes into play. Manufacturing plants can be located in districts where population is rooted to the soil, thus supplying whole time and part time work to the people, as in the days when village handicrafts flourished. This will make factory workers more or less independent of temporary depressions, and will at all times enable them to live under more pleasant conditions, drawing much of their sustenance themselves from the soil.
Dr. Glenn Frank, president of the University of Wisconsin, has contrasted the effects of steam power and electrical power as follows:
“In a machine civilization created by steam power the worker must go to the power, but in a machine civilization created by electric power the power can be taken
to the worker; and that is a revolutionary fact which means that when we say ‘machine civilization’ in terms of 1950, we may be dealing with a machine civilization that is as different as imagination can conceive from the machine civilization which began when James Watt first harnessed the expansive power of steam to the processes of production.”
Henry Ford forecasts as one of the results of distributable power the breaking up of huge centralized factories into smaller units specializing in parts, and the spread of these plants over the countryside, where workers will have land available for growing their own food as a part time employment. Speaking of decentralization as a dominant factor in future industrial growth, he asks:
“Is it efficient for business to pay high land prices and high taxes in congested cities where its workers must pay exorbitant rent, when, by moving fifty miles into the country, it could get low land prices, lower taxes and lower rents, and far better living conditions for its people?”
You can actually see this social and industrial revolution at work in Canada now. Let me quote a few instances.
The Proof of the Pudding
■pLECTRIC energy developed at the head waters of •*-' the Saguenay River is delivered to communities in the St. Lawrence Valley, hundreds of miles distant. From the wilds of the Gatineau district in Quebec hydroelectric power is being delivered to communities in Eastern Ontario and to Toronto. From Niagara similar power is distributed all over Southwestern Ontario. Most dramatic and significant illustration of all is the development now being carried out at the Abitibi Canyon, not far from Moose Factory, on James Bay, where
power in process of being developed from a river flowing into the waters of the Arctic, is to be brought down over a height of land and distributed, hundreds of miles from its source, in a region draining into the Atlantic. One might quote other far-flung distributions of power under way in the Prairie Provinces and British Columbia.
Now let us look at what the application of distributable power is doing. The Eastern Townships in Quebec, long a purely agricultural district, are now supplementing their agricultural activities by a thriving industrial life; and, instead of their sons and daughters migrating to the cities, they are being kept at home, and other sons
and daughters from the cities brought back to the land. Ontario is everywhere building up combined agricultural and industrial populations, and the progress being made in extending city power privileges throughout the country is indicated by the fact that extensions of rural primary distribution lines are now proceeding in that province at the rate of 1,000 miles per annum.
Electrical energy can be made to supply heat as well as power. Hence the manufacture of that modern wonder metal, aluminum, is now firmly established at Shawinigan Falls and at the head of the Saguenay River, in a town called Arvida, whose site but yesterday was a barren wilderness. The industry has been attracted here from other countries solely because of an abundance of cheap hydro-electric energy located practically on tidewater. Great smelters are being established in our mining districts for refining the metal that formerly was smelted abroad. Mines are being worked by electricity instead of by costly imported coal, hauled at almost prohibitive price from distant regions. Pulpwood is being manufactured into paper solely because distributable power is available. It could not be manufactured here if we had to depend wholly or largely upon imported coal for power.
Thus we might go on, giving many more instances to show the profound and far-reaching changes being effected in Canada by distributable power. But sufficient has been said to indicate the beginnings of the decentralization which distributable power is bringing about, the increase and wider spread of industrial activities, and the more general diffusion of wealth and good living over the land.
But that is not all. One of the great developments of the future will be the electrification of our railways—a development as certain as that the sun will rise tomorrow. This is already proceeding in the United States. It is beginning here. In Montreal the Harbor Railway and a section of the Canadian National Railways have already beenelectrified. When the new terminal is completed in Montreal, say five years from now, all the Canadian National lines will be electrified within the city limits. The Canadian Pacific will undoubtedly follow suit, if indeed it dora not have its lines electrified first. In the United States, New York City provides the most striking example of electrified railways within city limits, but there are many other instances, and one railway has even electrified its tracks for 600 miles over mountains. Trains of 4,000 tons go up and down steep mountain grades under perfect control at speeds never obtained under steam operation, and with a regularity that leaves no doubt as to the practicability of electrification.
Here again, what a field for the future electrical engineer!
Electricity on the Farm
'T'HERE is still another aspect of the subject —the growing use of electricity on the farm and in the home, destined to work one of the most marvellous transformations of all.
In MacLean’s Magazine of September 15 last there was an advertisement of the Northern Electric Company which stated that, “more than 250 practical, profitable uses for electrical current for farms have been developed, all of which are in daily use.” I have been trying to think up some of these 250 applications of electricity, not only on the farm but in the home. Here is a list that readily occurs:
General Farm Applications
Bone grinder, groomer, com ear crusher, corn cracker, feed grinder, fodder cutter, ensilage cutter, fertilizer mixer, feed mixer, wood splitter, wood saw, grindstone, water pump, grain elevator, grain separator, bench grinder, clipping machine, shearing machine, hay hoist, oat crusher, silo filler, straw cutter, fodder cake crusher, thresher, electro-culture, ploughing (Germany and Sweden), meat curing, hay drying, wood preservation, root grinder, lathe, air compressor, burr mill, concrete mixer, potato grader, portable storage battery, lantern.
Ice breaker, ice cream freezer, ventilator, electric milker, pipe line milker, Babcock milk tester, homogenizer, concentrator, filler and capper, forewarmer and mixer, separator, pasteurizer, can dryer, bottle washer, churn, electro-purification of milk, churn and butter worker, refrigeration.
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Oyster shell crusher, poultry feed mixer, egg tester, brooder, incubator, lighted chicken house (to stimulate winter laying), feed grinder, corn sheller, water heater, grain cracker, stimulation of growth.
Fruit harvester, cider press, cider mill, dehydrator, fruit packer, spraying apparatus, fruit press, frost prevention, insect destruction.
Clothes dryer, meat chopper, bread mixer, bell ringing transformer, ironing machine, flatiron, percolator, heater, egg beater, immersion beateç, waffle iron, refrigerator, dishwasher, vibrator, rectifier, electric piano, curling iron, warming pad, sewing machine motor, hair dryer, toaster, grill, ozonator, humidifier, siren, washing machine, range, vacuum cleaner, fan, electric phonograph, grinder and buffer, soldering iron, portable motor, mangle, ice cream freezer, house lighting, radio, artificial sunshine.
So far probably not a single farm or home is equipped as it might be with electrical apparatus. For how many of the mentioned it will be worth
while to have special equipment we do not as yet know, because the application of electricity is so new and as yet has only been applied in large measure to bulk propositions. But already the equipment of farm and home has captured the imagination of electrical experts and is capturing the imagination of the people, and there are indications that shortly Canada will lead the world in this respect, on a per capita basis.
The reason for this belief is the magnitude of the operations now under way in the Dominion for the development of hydro-electric power. According to the Department of the Interior, the developed water power of Canada up to January 1st, 1930, amounted to 5,727,162 horsepower, while at June 30 last another official estimate was that an additional 1,680,000 h.p. was under active development from coast to coast. Many of these installations, the Department states, comprise only the initial stages, and when such plants have reached their ultimate designed capacity, a still further 2,000,000 h.p. will be added to the Dominion’s total.
These figures, of course, mean nothing to the layman, quoted offhand like that. Let me see if I can put a little meaning into them. Roughly it may be said that it costs $100 to develop each horsepower. Therefore the 1,680,000 h.p. now in active development capital expenditure
of $168,000,000. The electrical experts tell us that for every dollar spent in the actual development of hydro-electric energy, seven dollars are spent in the application of that energy to industrial and domestic use. Thus we see that the expenditure of $168,000,000 on power development will mean a further expenditure of $1,176,000,000. Now add to this the further development of 2,000,000 h.p. which will come from the ultimate designed capacity of plants now being built. There you have a further capital expenditure of $200,000,000, entailing another expenditure in the application of that electricity of $1,400,000,000. Let us tabulate these figures:
Cost of 1,680,000 h.p. 168,000,000 Application of above 1,176,000,000 Cost of 2,000,000 h.p. 200,000,000 Application of above 1,400,000,000 Total $2,944,000,000
Can you grasp it? Additional hydroelectric developments actually under way are entailing now, and in the few years immediately before us, an expenditure $3,000,000,000 in the electrical trades and professions and in the trades and professions which it immediately affects. The figures are simply staggering, but then is everything else connected with this new electrical age.
Stupendous Engineering Feats
TF WE cannot grasp the ultimate mean-
ing of computations like the above, we can at least give credence to them when we regard the primary marvels that are accompanying the development our water powers. Take, for instance, the St. Maurice River, one of the largest tributaries of the St. Lawrence. In order to preserve the permanency of the flow for power purposes all the year round, under any climatic conditions, the river has been dammed at various points, thus creating large reservoirs. One of these dams, the Gouin Dam, has created reservoir with a capacity of 160 billion cubic feet, or twice the capacity of the Assouan Dam on the Nile, one of the wonders of the world, and a paramount factor in the whole economy of the great land of Egypt. People from the four corners of the earth ascend the Nile see this mighty structure—how many people, even in Canada, have seen the Gouin reservoir?
No less wonderful have been the works on the Saguenay River for the development of power. There stupendous engineering feats have been under way for several years, resulting already in the creation of half a million horsepower, be followed by another million in the year 1931. These works include the carrying of the whole river across a mountain range and delivering it back into its own bed at a point where a maximum drop can be obtained.
On the St. Lawrence River, twenty-five miles east of Montreal, works are now process which eventually will create 2,000,000 h.p. They will involve eventually the utilization of the whole flow of a river that has as its reservoirs by far the largest body of fresh water in the world—the Great Lakes. As a necessary accompaniment of this project the building is now well advanced of a canal thirteen miles long by half a mile wide and thirty feet deep in the centre, to permit ocean liners of the future to pass through what up till now has been farm land, their way to the Great Lakes !
At Niagara the works carried out the Hydro-Electric Commission Ontario rival the great cataract itself as spectacle, and are profoundly significant of the way in which Canadians, by and through the unique and all-powerful tool of electricity which has so lately been placed in their hands, are dominating the physical characteristics of their country and wresting from nature the treasures
she has held in store for them in such abundant measure.
These are marvels being created under our very eyes. We can at any time go and actually see them. What we cannot adequately comprehend are the greater marvels of which they and many other lesser developments have been and will be the cause.
Some people look at the giant installations under way with misgiving. They say Canada is heading straight for an over-development of hydro-electric energy, just as it has over-developed its wheat production and the manufacture of newsprint.
Not so! The uses to which electricity can be put are too many and too varied. Once it becomes apparent that there is more electricity available than is called for, that very fact will be the salvation of the farm and the home and of industries specializing in the application of electricity.
The application of electricity is only in its infancy. Up to the present time service to industry has been the main concern of the electrical industry, and everywhere the power concerns, eager for the disposal of large blocks of power, have made special concessions to large power consumers. We have only to look around to see what a benefit that has been to industry and to the nation.
But the thought is now beginning to grip the imagination of the electrical industry that in the home and on the farm is to be found the next big area of electrical development.
The power concerns have the key to this great new area in their own hands, and can use it at any time to bring a revolutionary increase in their business. At present there is a marked discrepancy between the rates charged for power to industry and the rates charged to small users of energy on the farm and in the home. These latter rates induce a restricted use of electricity. The power concerns of late years have been making it a policy to have a progressive decrease in the charge to small users. That decrease is in direct proportion to increasing supply, and of course is the result also of new discoveries making for economy. But as the charges decrease the consumption by small users goes up. The time undoubtedly is fast approaching when farm and domestic rates will compare more favorably than now with the rates for industrial power. Happily the interests of the nation, of the consumer, and of the security holders of the electrical industry are the same in this matter, so that we may look forward to just such a scaling down of rates and a scaling up of farm and domestic uses as the rapidly developing installations will allow.
The End of Drudgery
NOW let us try to sum up what lies immediately before us in the new wonder age of electricity. Every part of our great Dominion is going to have as much power for its local requirements as though it were situated over a coal bed, enabling its resources to be developed at will. And if you say there is not enough water power in Canada to do that, do not forget that coal can be converted into electric energy at the pit head, and the power thus created carried far afield. Distributable power, not low rates for hauling coal, is the key to the economic use of the great coal beds in Eastern Canada and in Alberta and British Columbia. Alberta alone has enough coal to provide the electrical needs of all three prairie provinces, while the possibilities in this direction of the Nova Scotia coal beds stagger imagination. And the secondary industries that can be built up by the utilization of the by-products of coal used for the generation of electricity provide industrial possibilities of unimaginable consequence.
All this coming use of distributable power means that our industrial population will no longer be concentrated in large
manufacturing centres, but will be widely distributed over the land, growing much of their food on their own small holdings— a task itself to be made easy by the aid of electricity. Our railways will be electrified, vastly increasing their efficiency and decreasing the drawbacks which now accompany them. Our main automobile highways will be illuminated at night. Our homes will be heated, cooled and humidified by electricity, which means that our houses will have no chimneys, and no coal bins, and will need no basement except for the parking of automobiles and for storage purposes.
Drudgery on the farm and in the home will be practically abolished, for almost everything requiring physical exertion will be done by mechanical appliances with electricity as a motive power. Even our budding beards will be swept smoothly from our faces by the velvet touch of electrically-operated razors, our dishes washed and dried by the turning of a switch, and our shoes polished by an electric process as we step on our mats. We shall grow what flowers and fruit we
will indoors, at any season, by means of artificial sunlight supplied by electricity. We shall never need to wind our clocks, since they will all be operated by electricity, and no watch dogs will be needed, since electrical appliances will guard us while we sleep. Instead of having to pore over books, we shall have them read to us by electricity. The radio will be accompanied by a television apparatus, and instead of news being served up to us in the past tense, we shall be able to sit in our homes and hear and see world events as they occur.
Is there any need to continue the catalogue? Look around you. These things, and many others, are coming into being under your very eyes. We are already in the dawning of the wonder age of distributable power, the infinite flexibility of which is being demonstrated daily to us in new ways.
Coming back to where we started from, was there not good reason for recommending electrical engineering as a career for a boy whose aptitudes indicated a bias in that direction?