Milestone-Proposal:Mechanicville Hydroelectric Facility

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Docket #:2020-10

This is a draft proposal, that has not yet been submitted. To submit this proposal, click on "Actions" in the toolbar above, then "Edit with form". At the bottom of the form, check the box that says "Submit this proposal to the IEEE History Committee for review. Only check this when the proposal is finished" and save the page.

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation? No

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:

1898 - present

Title of the proposed milestone:

Mechanicville Hydroelectric Facility, 1898

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

The Mechanicville Hydroelectric Plant is a very early example of the electrification of our society. Its design and early improvements advanced new techniques in the areas of civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering, the last being the brainchild of the remarkable Charles P. Steinmetz. The beginning of the project was greeted by an economic depression, legal battles with an upstream paper mill, an artificial real estate explosion to set the stage for property-rights battles, the relatively large low-head turbine redesign, and significant planning needed for the new south dam. Despite this, the plant has been continuously operational for over 120 years.

The Mechanicville Hydroelectric Facility is a prototype of the earliest low head facilities from the earliest days of electricity generation. Construction of this facility was possible only through joint collaboration between civil, mechanical and electrical engineering disciplines. Electricity generated initially provided power to Thomas Edison’s Schenectady GE works. The plant became a working testbed for GE’s Charles P. Steinmetz as he pioneered long distance power transmission. Despite economic, legal, property and technology challenges, the plant has been continuously operational for over 120 years making it one of the oldest such facilities in the world.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?


IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: Region 1, Schenectady Section
Senior Officer Name: Colin McDonough / Krishnat Patil

Unit: NE US & Canada/Hudson-Mohawk/MDE ASME
Senior Officer Name: Deepak Trivedi

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: Region 1, Schenectady Section
Senior Officer Name: Colin McDonough / Krishnat Patil

Unit: NE US & Canada/Hudson-Mohawk/MDE ASME
Senior Officer Name: Deepak Trivedi

Unit: ASCE
Senior Officer Name: Jennifer Lawrence

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: Region 1, Schenectady Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Colin McDonough / Krishnat Patil

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Michael Treanor
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: William Newmann
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Ahmed Elasser
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Michael Davi - ASME
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Jennifer Lawrence
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

951 Hudson River Road, Mechanicville, NY 12118, Lat/Long=42.8777591,-73.6776549

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. The intended site is the location of Steinmetz's original turbine-generators. The building is listed as an Historic Site.

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

Plaque location is on front exterior of building.

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

This location is fenced and monitored but accessible during tours.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

Albany Engineering Corporation

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)?

Constructed in 1892, the Mechanicville Hydroelectric Plant has been in operating condition for longer than any other three-phase While other hydroelectric facilities were being built or had been built, MHF was being designed by Charles P Steinmetz. Other notable power engineers were William Stanley and Elihu Thomson, while the advances in turbine engineering were made by (need name). Placement of a hydroelectric facility was influenced more by proximity to the target customer than a paper mill, for example, due to the different form of transportation needed for the product. The low-pressure head While other hydroelectric facilities were being built or had been built, MHF was being designed by Charles P Steinmetz using Westinghouse and Tesla patents.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

There were objections by vacationers, fishermen, and locals to placing profit and science above the natural beauty of the region. The effective use of the Hudson required a new dam (the South Dam) to be built to replace the rapids with a lake that could provide constant head to drive the turbines. There were legal battles with the Hudson River Water Power and Paper Co. (HRWR&P) regarding the South Dam decreasing the head at the HRWP&P North Dam. Two engineers were electrocuted during construction, forcing Steinmetz to redesign the generators during construction. Funding was in doubt as some investors were very skeptical. Construction was delayed by an economic depression in the early 1890s, and construction was set back by flooding in 1897.

Litigation to prevent the owner, Niagara Mohawk, from demolishing the Mechanicville Hydroelectric Station started in the 1980s and culminated in 2003 with ownership being transferred to Albany Engineering Corporation, who favored preservation and restoration of the facility. Stipulations in the settlement required substantial stabilization of the structure as well as restoration of the generation.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

The Mechanicville Hydroelectric Facility is the oldest continuously operational 3-phase AC hydro-power plant in the world. The intimate involvement of Charles P. Steinmetz in the design of the generators and the advances he made based on experiments at the MHF, coordination of power from the Schaghticoke power station, the direct usage of Tesla Patents, the facility construction drawing large crowds of tourists every day, the original small low-head turbine design, the coordination of the Civil, Mechanical, and Electrical disciplines, and the later high-voltage dc experiments performed at the plant set it apart from similar early designs such as Mill Creek station near Redlands, CA.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

In his 1911 paper in the Journal of the Franklin Institute, Steinmetz presented a description of the phenomena of electrical transients in power systems. His point was to describe these without theoretical mathematics. The description includes the mechanics of a water-power source interacting with an electrical transient, and it is safe to assume the Mechanicville Hydroelectric Plant offered a platform for the observations he needed for his paper.

In a biography of Steinmetz (John W. Hammond), Steinmetz described the economic advantage of an automated power station. At the time, delivering power at a few cents per kW·hr made electric power much more practical, so that an automatic response to load variations was much preferred to manning a station. He also recognized the role of electricity in providing nitrogen-based fertilizer, which he saw as a future strong need in the United States. Finally, he saw that our supply of coal would eventually be exhausted, so that the inexhaustible water power was the only sustainable means of producing electricity.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

The supporting material for the National Register of Historic Places Media:National Register Nomination Acceptance.pdf (which is also available here: provides much of the background.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).