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Neptune Bank Power Station

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1901 The Newcastle-upon-Tyne Electric Supply Co opened the Neptune Bank Power Station, the first power station in the UK to generate three-phase electricity, and the first to supply electricity for industrial purposes rather than just lighting. The station was designed by Charles Merz of Merz and McLellan. The initial output was at 6600 V, 40 Hz.

The first three generating units were driven by triple-expansion, four-cylinder reciprocating engines of the marine type. The working steam pressure was 200 psi, the superheated steam temperature 480 deg.F., and the condenser vacuum 25" to 26" Hg. The engines ran at 100 rpm, and each unit developed 800 kilowatts at full load. Additional plant soon became necessary, and 1500 kW turbine-alternator was ordered from C. A. Parsons and Co, to run at 1200 rpm, and it was put into service early in 1902. The turbine-generators were described in some detail in 'The Engineer' in 1934 [1]

The first large reciprocating engine was made by the Wallsend Slipway and Engineering Co, and indicated 1400 HP. The other three were made by Wigham Richardson and Co. Smaller engines were supplied by Belliss and Morcom.[2].

1901 'Electric Power Station at Wallsend.

The first electric power supply company to commence operation has its power station at Wallsend, and was inaugurated on Tuesday by Lord Kelvin. In the station there is at present 5,000 horse power installed,and before the end of the summer this figure will be doubled. Steam is supplied by means of water-tube boilers, Babcock and Wilcox make. There are three main engines, each of 1,400 horse power, and of the triple expansion type, one having been built by the Wallsend Slipway and Engineering Company, and the others by Messrs Wigham Richardson and Co. The electric generators are of the Thomson-Houston Company’s manufacture. They are of the revolving field magnet type, and generate three-phase currents at a pressure of 5,500 volts. In the various yards in the district electricity is supplied under widely different conditions, and to all kinds of machine tools, and has resulted in doing away with long lengths of wasteful steam piping as well as with much belting, thus minimising the transmiss[ion] losses.

There was a considerable number of guests at the opening of the new station, and they had a most interesting day, having the privilege of witnessing the formal commencement of what seems likely to develop into enormous industry. They gathered at the Central Station in Newcastle, and were taken by special train to Carville, on the riverside line, whence they were conveyed in carriages to the power station, at Neptune Ranks. Here they saw and admired the electrical installation - the huge water-tube boilers, working at a pressure of 200 lbs. ; the economiser, which raises the feed water up to a temperature of 212 degrees, the three triple-expansion engines, each capable of indicating 1,400 horse power ; the three-phase alternators, of the Thomson-Houston make, generating three-phase currents at a pressure of from 5,500 to 6,000 volts and perodicity of 40 complete cycles per second ; the switch-boards ; and outside the beautiful cooling pond and the tall chimney, 150 feet high. After half-an-hour’s stay in the power house the visitors proceeded in carriages to the Northumberland Forge, to visit the North-Eastern Marine Engineering Company's works, and the sub-station which supplies electric energy to them. Thence they went to Willington Quay to inspect the electric installation of the Northumberland Shipbuilding Company, Limited, and left by carriage for the drill hall, Walker, passing on the way the works of Messrs. Wigham Richardson and Co. and Sir W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth, and Co., to which electric energy is supplied from the power station. the drill hall the. guests were entertained to luncheon the chairmen and directors the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Electric Supply Co. and the Walker and Wallsend Union Gas Co., who are responsible for the undertaking.

'Sir Andrew Noble, K.C.B., presided at the luncheon, and was supported by Lord Kelvin, Dr. G. T. Merz, Ald. T. G. Gibson, Dr. R. Spence Watson, Mr J. H. Armstrong, and F. W. Dendy, the Newcastle Electric Supply Company : Mr T. Crawford, Mr G. A. Allen, Mr J. R. Lownds, and C. W. Mitchell, of the Walker and Union Gas Company.

'Lord Kelvin said they had been spending a most interesting afternoon. They had seen at work what many them had never seen before — a system realised in which a central station developed power by steam engines, and delivered it by electricity to consumers, at a distance varying from a quarter of a mile to three and a half miles. Having seen the Tyneside electrical supply actually at work, he thought he was entitled to declare that the Tyneside electrical supply was now inaugurated and in active work, performing the function for which it was called into existence. (Applause.) He formally declared the electric supply Tyneside now open. (Applause.) It was only the beginning, a scale which a few years ago they would have called a very large scale, but which the Newcastle Electric Supply Company now regarded as only a small part what it was going to do. At the Neptune Bank station they had seen electric generators — generators on the three-phase system electric supply — and they had seen on the ground floor, actually at work, and ready to work, over 4,500 horse-power - 3,000 horse power actually working by two engines of 1,500 horse-power each, but another one standing by, ready to start - he thought he might say in a few minutes if wanted — and to be called upon to run with the other two in doing work the if load became somewhat heavier, as it did that morning. A larger station was in prospect; larger works were contemplated. It was a comparatively small start, but the Neptune Bank station had been admirably begun. What was contemplated by the Newcastle Electric Supply Company to do in the future — what it was doing now - was to give power to large consumers on the three-phase system; to give power for consumers taking perhaps from 200 to 500 horse-power, using that most admirable motor, the three-phase motor, worked by the triple conductor current on the three-phase system ; given into the factories at high pressure, and transformed through stationary transformers to three-phase work at pressure suitable for direct connection with generators scattered through the works. This was the first and from one point of view the largest field operation proposed by the Newcastle Electric Supply Company. The second, third, and fourth objects were under full consideration, and were partly in practice at the present time. The second object was to supply low tension direct current for lighting and power. It was anticipated that for small users this system might be preferred to the three-phase system, not merely in connection with the greatness of the quantity taken, but from certain considerations regarding the convenience in use. They had seen both systems that day. They had seen the North-Eastern Marine Engineering Works using low pressure, very much smaller than the 5,500 volts - 500 continuous or direct current — driving motors throughout the works. In the yard they saw a 90-ton load under a sheer-legs, driven a direct power motor. They saw cranes of various powers, all working, or ready to work, by these motors. They saw travelling crane over the whole length of one of the main shops; and they saw side by side with it a square shaft the whole length of the shop, rotating - a monument the past. (Hear, hear.) It was not doing work that day, but it was ready to do work.' [3]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] The Engineer 9 Feb 1934, p.140
  2. [2] The Engineer, 13 Sept 1901
  3. Jarrow Express - Friday 21 June 1901