Solway Firth And Scotland
Solway Firth And Scotland

The tide’s in, as you can see – the Firth is full – Scotland is relaxing over the other side in a nice, if hazy, bit of sunshine. They’ve got sunshine over that side and all we have over this side is an electricity transmission line in the most awkward position possible. We are quite lucky, I suppose, if Edison had won the tremendous publicity campaign he waged, back in the 1880s, to promote his DC (Direct Current) system over the AC (Alternating Current) system that Westinghouse was proposing we would be up to our necks in wires.

Or maybe not. You see, The DC system had a couple of problems. First, you could only supply power to consumers within a mile of the power station. Second, it was difficult to change whatever voltage the power company supplied to a different one, so the supply company had to provide a separate pair of wires for each voltage that you needed. Those parts of a city supplied with DC sprouted posts supporting hundreds of wire criss-crossing in every direction – just imagine, you would need a pair of wires from the power station for your phone charger, and another for your laptop charger, and another for the TV and another for the lights, another for the cooker and on and on. Houses would begin to look like hedgehogs, sprouting wires in all directions.

In Europe, where there was no big public AC/DC battle, a bunch of Hungarian and German companies soon sorted it out and we have AC this side of the Atlantic with just small pockets of DC lingering on until the 1950s in the older parts of large cities.

The interesting point here is, that if Edison had won, we would all probably be using his concept. This overcame the distance limitations of DC by having many small power generators, rather than a few massive power plants.

A bit like having solar panels on your roof and receiving a feed in tariff for your efforts.

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