The origins of hydroelectricity
6th September, 2007
In my pursuit to better understand energy systems, my journey has taken me to Cragside in Northumberland
The bizarre and remarkable home designed by Norman Shaw for the victorian industrialist, scientist, engineer and technical innovator, William George Armstrong (1810-1990). Perched on a crag amidst it's own micro-climate created by seven million trees of Armstrong's planting, it is the first house in the world to be powered by hydroelectricity.
It was while observing a waterwheel in action supplying power to a marble quarry, it struck Armstrong that much of the available power was being wasted. And so, very much in the manner of the Victorians of that time, off he headed to invent, amongst other things, the hydraulic crane - a quayside crane powered by water pressure. So successful was this invention that he resigned from his legal practise, raised the necessary financial backing, built a factory to manufacture cranes and other hydraulic equipment which he went onto sell in enormous quantities throughout the world.
And so there the might story end, but no...
In the spirit of a true entrepreneur, Armstrong diversified, with yet more success, into guns and warships...but I was visiting Cragside to learn more about his interests in renewable energy systems. 150 years ago Armstrong foresaw the energy...
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