Hydro Lighting

World’s First Hydro Plant

William George Armstrong in 1878 installed the worldís first hydroelectric scheme to power incandescent light blubs at Cragside house in Northumberland.

Cragside was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, when Lord Armstrong used water from the lakes on the estate to generate electricity through a turbine. His friend Joseph Swan provided the light bulbs to light the house.

Continuing the Hydro Journey

The introduction of this modern hydro system – a 17 metre long galvanised turbine weighing several tonnes meant it once again began to produce enough energy to light the bulbs in the house, enabling Cragside to re-tell the story for which it is famous. At the beginning of July, the Archimedes screw had produced exactly 13669 kWh of electricity, which is almost enough to run electricity in three average sized homes for a year. This is enough energy to light all of the lights in the house – which is no mean feat. The average home has 24 light bulbs; Cragside House has over 350 of them!

To make this system as efficient as possible, the house is fitted entirely with LED lightbulbs as each bulb is only 5 watts, it takes only 2 kWh in total to light the house, fulfilling and continuing Lord Armstrong’s dream of lighting his home entirely with hydroelectricity. The Archimedes Screw is a centuries old system, more commonly used today to generate electricity. However the design of the Archimedes screw, attributed to Archimedes of Syracuse on the 3rd century BC, was originally used to lift water up an incline. More recently, scientists and engineers determined that it is possible to produce electricity by letting water drop through the screw. These reverse Archimedes screws are now fast becoming a popular form of a micro-hydro generation in places such as Cragside.

Water from Tumbleton lake, the lowest of the five lakes on the Cragside estate, feeds through the turbine and into the burn below. As water passes through the spiral blades it causes the screw to turn, thereby harnessing the energy of falling water; quite literally turning water into electric light.

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