The Birth of the Grid

The widespread availability of electricity is a defining feature of modern civilization, with almost 90% of the world’s population having access to electricity. The journey towards pervasive electricity began with the invention of the incandescent lamp in 1879, which later led to the creation of a complete generation and distribution system by Thomas Edison. Edison’s direct current (DC) power system dominated the industry until competitors began to develop more cost-effective alternating current (AC) systems. Despite Edison’s initial objections, AC power eventually won out and allowed for the development of hydroelectric power plants that could transmit power over long distances. The use of electricity in industry also grew rapidly, with electricity supplying almost 40% of US industry’s mechanical power by 1914.

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