Early Power Generation

 
(1883)* - Banning Street Electrical Plant -- The first electric light plant in Los Angeles was built in 1882 by Charles L. Howland on the corner of Alameda and Banning Streets (In 1883, Howland and others formed the Los Angeles Electric Company).  

 

Historical Background

In 1831, Michael Faraday devised a machine that generated electricity from rotary motion, but it took almost 50 years for the technology to reach a commercially viable stage. In 1878, in the US, Thomas Edison developed and sold a commercially viable replacement for gas lighting and heating using locally generated and distributed direct current electricity.

The Edison plant supplied its light through incandescent lamps. In 1882, a similar kind of lighting, in an improved form, was proposed for Los Angeles by Charles L. Howland, representing a San Francisco based company, the California Electric Light Company (now PG&E). The name changed later that year to the Los Angeles Electric Company).

On September 11, 1882 the City Council unanimously voted to enter into a contract with Howland to “illuminate the streets of the city with electric light.” The contract called for Howland, at his own expense, to install seven 150-foot-high masts each carrying three electric lamps and to provide the distribution poles, lines, and the electrical energy needed to light them.

Howland set quickly to work. He had received a deadline of December 1, 1882 to have the masts erected and electricity on. By October 25, he had purchased a lot on the corner of Alameda and Banning Streets where he proceeded to put up a brick building, 50 by 80 feet, to house the boilers, engines and the 30kw, 9.6 ampere “Brush” arc lighting equipment for supplying the electric energy. Three weeks later, by November 16, the masts were in place and soon afterwards the pole lines and wires were strung along the streets leading to the masts.

The project was considered so successful that before the expiration of Holland’s two year contract, he and others had formed the Los Angeles Electric Company, which besides serving streetlights, supplied arc lights for commercial establishments.*^

 

Historical Notes

It should be noted that In addition to providing power for electric street lights, the early power plants mainly provided electricity for the new electric railways that were proliferating throughout the Southland.

Charles H. Howland also chartered the first electric streetcar company in Los Angeles, LA Electric Railroad Company, on September 11, 1886.  It began operations on January 4, 1887 with the line opening from Pico Boulevard and Main Street traveling west to Harvard Boulevard.  In 1896, many of the major horse and cable cars operating in Los Angeles converted to electrical power.**^

 

 

Click HERE to see more of LA's first electric street lights.

 

 

 

 

 
(1888)* - Banning Street Electrical Plant now showing two smokestacks. It appears that the building as been enlarged from its original footprint as seen in the previous 1883 photo.  

 

 

 

Early Electric Light Generators (ca. 1895)

 
(ca. 1895)^* - Photograph of a man operating electric light generators in Los Angeles, ca.1895. The generators are at center and are belt-driven by reciprocal steam engines. The belt can be seen at center and is connected to a gigantic metal wheel in the foreground at left. A man is standing in the background near the electric generators. The room in which the generators are housed has wooden floorboards and wooden walls. The electric generators have the words "DAFT ELECTRIC LIGHT” engraved on them.  

 

 

Early Electric Power Plants

West Side Lighting Company Power Plant (1904)

 
(1904)* - View of a small power plant of the West Side Lighting Company, predecessor of Southern California Edison Company. Established in 1895 on Vermont Avenue near 22nd Street.  

 

 

Pacific Electric Power House on Boylston and Second Street (ca.1905)

 
(ca. 1905)^* - Second Street Railroad Power Station looking west from the corner of Boylston Street. The two-story brick utility building stands next to a cleared lot in front of an unpaved road in which streetcar rails can be seen, surrounded by utility poles. Houses in the residential area of the city can be seen to the left and on the hills in the background. A horse-drawn cargo wagon makes its way down the street at left. Between 1896 and 1906 the power house was in use as Edison Electric Company Steam Plant Number One.  

 

 

 

Pacific Light and Power Company Power Plant (ca. 1912)

Pacific Light and Power Company's first power plant (photo: ca. 1912). SCE would purchase Pacific Light and Power in 1917. In 1946 SCE constructed a power plant at the same site. Today a modified version of this new plant is owned and operated by AES.^
(ca. 1912)^ - This Pacific Light and Power Company power plant was built in 1902 to provide electricity for the Pacific Electric Red Car system in Los Angeles and the surrounding Redondo Beach area.  

 

 

 

 

 
(ca. 1920s)* - View of the Redondo Beach Pacific Power and Light Plant after it was purchased by SCE.  

 

 

Early LADWP Power Plants

In 1909 the Bureau of Los Angeles Aqueduct Power was created to build hydroelectric power plants along the Los Angeles Aqueduct. When Los Angeles acquired water rights in the Owens Valley section of Inyo County to construct the LA Aqueduct, it also obtained water-power sites along the way.

Ezra F. Scattergood was selected as the Bureau’s first chief electrical engineer. Scattergood led the way in the development of hydroelectric power along the route of the aqueduct and became Mulholland’s counterpart for the Power System.

 

San Francisquito Power Plant No. 1 (1917)

 
(1917)* - View of the San Francisquito Power Plant No. 1 just before its opening. Construction of this power plant was the Los Angeles Bureau of Power and Light's first step in becoming an independent electricity provider.  

 

Historical Notes

Construction of he San Francisquito Power Plant No. 1 began in 1911 at the same time the LA Aqueduct was being built (1907-1913).*

 

 

 
(n.d.)* - Interior view of Power Plant No. 1 showing the turbine-generators.  

 

Historical Notes

To drive the turbine-generators, water from the Aqueduct falls 940 feet down the steep side of San Francisquito canyon, and plays on the water wheel that turns the generator through 14-inch nozzles.*

 

 

 
(1917)* - Opening of the San Francisquito Power Plant No. 1 on March 18, 1917. Construction of the plant began six years earlier in 1911.  

 

Historical Notes

On March 18, 1917 the San Francisquito Power Plant No. 1, Unit 1 was placed in service and energy was delivered to Los Angeles over a newly constructed 115 kV transmission line. The 200 kilowatts generated by Unit 1 were the first commercial kilowatts generated by the Los Angeles Bureau of Power and Light (Click HERE to see more in Early Power Transmission).

Subsequently on April 28 and April 16, 1917, Units 2 and 3 respectively were placed in operation.

The LA Bureau of Power and Light now had a source of low cost electricity and more than enough power to meet the City's needs.  It would sell its excess San Francisquito generated power to Pasadena over two newly constructed 34 kV lines between the two cities. By 1917, World War I had forced the price of fuel oil to rise making the new lower cost hydroelectric power extremely desirable.^

 

 

Click HERE to see more in Electricity on the Aqueduct

 

 

 

 

River Power House (1917)

 
(1917)** - Built in 1917, by the Bureau of Power and Light, the building was located in Studio City on Coldwater Canyon (originally Diaz Street) at the Los Angeles River. View on the left shows water passing through the turbine. City officials and River Power House are seen in the foreground. Water was channeled to the Los Angeles River and sent to the Buena Vista pumping plant in Elysian Park. From Elysian Park, the water could be sent to either east Los Angeles or to the Franklin Canyon Reservoir and then into the west side water system.**

 

 

San Fernando Power House (1917)

 
(1917)** - The San Fernando Power House in Sylmar under construction by the Bureau of Power and Light. The tail race is visible in the foreground.  

 

 

San Francisquito Power Plant No. 2 (1928)

 

Man standing by generators (1928)* - St. Francis Dam in San Francisquito Canyon near Saugus was completed in 1926 and failed in 1928. It was part of the Owens Valley Aqueduct System. This pre-failure photograph shows a man standing by 2 hydroelectric generators in Power Plant No. 2. The plant was destroyed when the St. Francis Dam failed on March 12, 1928. By November 1928, this plant was completely restored and back in service.

 

 

 

Big Pine Power Plant (1928)

 
(1928)* - Big Pine Power Plant on June 7, 1928, operated by the Municipal Bureau of Power and Light. It had a generating capacity of 4200 horsepower.*  

 

 

Seal Beach Power Plant (ca. 1928)

Exterior view of the LA Gas and Electric Company plant with its prominent smokestack in Seal Beach. The plant was built in 1925 at a cost of nearly $14 million.

 

 

 

 

 

(ca. 1928)* - LA Gas and Electric Seal Beach Power Plant  

 

Historical Notes

In 1936, DWP bought the LA Gas and Electric Co. and in 1937 assumed ownership of the Seal Beach steam plant.

 

 

 
(1925)* - Interior view of LA Gas and Electric's Seal Beach Sub Station.  

 

 

 

 

(ca. 1928)^^ - Another view of the Seal Beach plant and the Ocean Avenue bridge.

 

Built in 1924 for the former Los Angeles Gas & Electric Corporation, on a 14 acre tract near Ocean Ave and First Street, the Seal Beach Steam Generating Plant was acquired, along with the Alameda Steam Generating Plant, by the Department when it purchased the electric system of the Los Angeles Gas and Electric and took possession of the properties February 1, 1937. The Alameda Street plant was retired from service by Board resolution in 1951. The combined capacity of the two generators at the Seal Beach plant was 75,000 kilowatts.*^

 

 

 
(ca. 1934)^^ - The original smokestack was damaged during the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake and replaced with a much shorter one as seen above. The Stanton House stands across from the plant on the right. The Seal Beach plant was taken out of service and demolished in 1967.  

 

 

 

 
(1940)* - The Seal Beach plant showing its new Municipal Light and Power sign. The plant was retired from service in 1951.  

 

 

Alameda Power Plant

 
(1930s) - The Alameda Steam Generating Plant was acquired, along with the Seal Beach Steam Generating Plant, by the Department when it purchased the electric system of the Los Angeles Gas and Electric and took possession of the properties February 1, 1937. The Alameda Street plant was retired from service by Board resolution in 1951.  

 

 

 

 
(1930s) - Alameda Steam Plant cooling towers.  

 

 

Harbor Steam Plant (ca. 1942)

 
(ca. 1942)* - Harbor Steam Plant Unit No. 1 construction. It is planned that the initial unit will be placed in operation about December 1942, at which time it is expected that present generation facilities will be inadequate for the winter peak. Construction of the plant actually was started early in 1932 and a few months later was halted by injection proceedings. The Bureau was successful in establishing its right to build the plant and the injection was dissolved, but later in the year an agreement was entered into for purchase of necessary energy and the steam plant construction program was postponed in favor of concentrating the Bureau’s efforts upon development and utilization of Boulder Dam power.*^
 

 

 

 

 
(1947)* - View showing progress on construction of the first addition to the Department of Water and Power Harbor Steam Plant in Wilmington. The new wing housed a second 65,000 kilowatt steam-turnine generator.  

 

 

 

 
(1948)* - Exterior view of the art deco style Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's Harbor steam plant building taken during its construction.
 

 

 

 

 
(1949)*^ - Interior of Harbor steam plant. Completing an eight-year construction program that was started in April of 1941, suspended through the war years and delayed through many months of the postwar period by scarcity of materials, equipment and manpower, Unit No. 5 at the Department’s Harbor Steam Plant was placed in service and synchronized to the system on the afternoon of July 5.
 

 

 

Valley Steam Plant (1953)

 
(1953)* - The Valley steam electric generating plant under construction in the San Fernando Valley.  

 

 

 

 
(1954)*** - Valley Steam Plant in Sun Valley. A General Electric F2 type turbine with a hydrogen cooled generator. This was Unit No. 1 at the Sun Valley Steam Plant. It is no longer in service.**  

 

 

 

 
(1955)* - Workmen haul the last of four electric generators into position at the $80,000,000 Valley Steam Plant.  

 

 

 

 
(1957)* - This huge 25-foot three-phase transformer at the Valley steam plant steps up voltage from 18,000 to 138,000 volts for transmission to the distribution system. The plant has about 1700 control switches, instruments and relays.  

 

 

 

 
(1957)* - Valley Steam Plant in the San Fernando Valley.  

 

 

 

City and business officials dedicate the new Valley Steam Plant at 11805 Sheldon Street on May 18, 1957.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valley Steam Plant (1957)* - From left are Lester Pickup, manager, Valley division, Southern California Gas Co.; Councilman Everett Burkhalter; Col. George F. Herbert, administrative assistant to Mayor Norris Poulson; William S. Peterson, general manager, Department of Water and Power; and J. C. Moller, president, Board of Water and Power Commissioners.*
 

 

 

 

 
(1956)*^* - Photo caption reads, "Valley Steam Plant glows with thousands of lights during nighttime operation. Pipes and valves in foreground are part of fuel lines leading to plant. Built on 150-acre site in Sun Valley at cost of $80,000,000, Valley Steam Plant has total generating capacity of 512,000 kilowatts of electricity. Because of mild climate, plant is virtually open to the air with complete housing only for operating personnel and most delicate equipment. Electricity is generated by means of turbines which are powered by super-heated steam, heated in boilers using either gas or oil as fuel."  Valley Times - August 1, 1956  

 

 

 

Scattergood Steam Plant (1956)

 
(1956)* - Construction of Scattergood Steam Plant.  

 

 

 

 
(1968)* - Air view of Scattergood Steam Plant. Commercial operation of the Department’s huge new Scattergood Steam Plant began on December 7, 1958 with the synchronizing of unit No. 1 to the Power System, following a series of shakedown test runs. The powerful turbine-generator has a capability of 160,000 kilowatts when operating at capacity.*^
 

 

 

 

 
Scattergood Steam Plant after completion of Unit No. 2.*  

 

 

 

 
(1968)* - Generator at Scattergood Steam Plant.  

 

 

Notes

In the 1950s and 1960s, DWP added a number of power plants, including the Owens River Gorge Hydroelectric Project, Valley Generating Station, Scattergood Generating Station, and Haynes Generation Station to accommodate the growing electrical power needs of Los Angeles.

 

 

Click HERE to see more in Electricity on the Aqueduct

 

 

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References and Credits

* DWP - LA Public Library Image Archive

^ Daily Breeze Article (10-5-11)

^*USC Digital Archive

*^LADWP Historic Archive

** CSUN Oviatt Library Digital Collection (A)

***CSUN Oviatt Library Digital Collection (B)

*^*LA Public Library Image Archive

**^Metro.net - Los Angeles Transit History

... Wikipedia: Electric Power Industry

^^Seal Beach Founders - http://sbfoundersday.wordpress.com/

 

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