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The Evolution of Power Generation

Electricity is a familiar comfort to us today, allowing us faster communication and increased productivity. Reliable electricity is so fundamental to modern life, we even have backup generators for when our main source of energy fails. So, how has power generation and backup power evolved over the years?

The history of electricity is a long and convoluted trail of technological milestones. Most people know the basics of the invention of electricity and the part that Benjamin Franklin played in these discoveries, but what about the history behind the backup generator?

Today’s generators are based on a major breakthrough discovered in 1831. British scientist, Michael Faraday connected a Galvanometer (a device that detects electric current) to a cylinder made of neutral material, a wire coil, and a bar magnet. Faraday made the connection that if he moved the bar magnet through the stationary coil that the Galvanometer detected electricity, which meant there was electricity flowing in the wire coil. It was because of these experiments that he went on to build the Faraday Disc, otherwise known as the first-ever electromagnetic generator.

Later, Hippolyte Pixii harnessed this concept and developed the first direct current dynamo in 1832, but it wasn’t until 1882 that the business that would later be known as General Electric was launched. In September 1882, the Pearl Street Station was created. This was a stroke of genius where a large bank of generators was connected to homes and businesses through a network of buried copper wires. At that time, the “electric grid” didn’t yet exist, and Pearl Street played an important role in the shift from small-scale, on-site generation to industrial-scale power. In the 1890s, some of the well-known companies still around today, like Westinghouse, Siemens, and General Electric, became leading generator companies. The ancestor of home backup generators, as we know them today, was the Kohler electric plant, which used them to provide backup power at Wenonah lodge from 1936 to the early 1950s.

Home backup generators combine all these prior inventions and discoveries to offer protection and security for when the grid fails due to inclement weather or other inconveniences. It’s only because of these breakthroughs that we’re able to have constant, reliable electricity 24/7. Backup generators do more than generator power for your home when you need it most, they also generate peace of mind.