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Wilson Dam & Hydroelectric Plant, Turbine & Generator Unit, Spanning Tennessee River at Wilson Dam Road (Route 133), Muscle Shoals, Colbert County, AL

Wilson Dam & Hydroelectric Plant, Turbine & Generator Unit, Spanning Tennessee River at Wilson Dam Road (Route 133), Muscle Shoals, Colbert County, AL

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Significance: At Wilson Dam, two manufacturers, Westinghouse and General Electric, each supplied 4 of the dam's first turbine and generator sets to the 18 unit-capacity powerhouse. Illustrated here is one of the original GE generators with its correlative "Francis" turbine built by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. Named after its originator, James B. Francis, the Francis, or inward-flow, turbine has distinctly American roots that lead back to its first application in the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts in 1849. By the time of Wilson Dam, the Francis turbine had grown in size and efficiency to become one of the standard prime movers in modern hydroelectric plants. Such increases in runner size were in tandem with an increase in the size of generators and their electrical output. In 1900, General Electric generators at Niagara Falls were producing 5,000 horsepower per unit. 25 years later, Wilson Dam was called the "Niagara of the South," with each GE generator set producing 35,000 h.p. Maximum efficiency in hydroelectric generation is dependent upon the integration of both dam and turbine design. The type and size of the runner dictates the design of the dam's penstock, scroll case and draft tube. At Wilson Dam, these sub-structural features utilize massive concrete formwork to create the perfect turbine setting. Flowing through three penstocks and into a single scroll case (spiral distributor), the water of the Tennessee River enters the turbine inwardly through guide vanes, flows into the side of the Frances runner and is discharged axially through the center of the turbine into the draft tube, in this case a unique design known as the Moody spreading draft tube. To maintain consistent electrical frequency throughout changes in river level, and hence, changed in turbine speed, flow of water into the runner is controlled by a Lombard hydraulic governor linked to a collar of 20 wicket gates that surrounds the turbine.
Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: N165
Survey number: HAER AL-47-A
National Register of Historic Places NRIS Number: 66000147

Niagara Falls is a group of three waterfalls at the southern end of Niagara Gorge, spanning the border between the US state of New York and the Canadian province of Ontario. The largest of the three is Horseshoe Falls, also known as Canadian Falls, which straddles the international border between Canada and the United States. The smaller American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls lie entirely within the United States. Bridal Veil Falls are separated from Horseshoe Falls by Goat Island and from American Falls by Luna Island, with both islands situated in New York as well. Located on the Niagara River, which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, the combined falls have the highest flow rate of any waterfall in North America that has a vertical drop of more than 50 meters (160 ft). Niagara Falls is famed both for its beauty and as a valuable source of hydroelectric power. In 1881, the Niagara River's first hydroelectric generating station was built. The water fell 86 feet (26 m) and generated direct current electricity, which ran the machinery of local mills and lit up some of the village streets. In 1893, Westinghouse Electric designed a system to generate alternating current. In 1896, giant underground conduits leading to turbines generating upwards of 100,000 horsepower (75 MW), we installed.



Historic American Engineering Record, creator
Tennessee Valley Authority
Benz, Sue, transmitter


Muscle Shoals (Ala.)34.74518, -87.63526
Google Map of 34.74517520000001, -87.6352603


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