There are several ways that energy can be generated and turned into power that we all use every day. Solar energy makes power from the sun. Coal energy creates power from burning the fuel. Hydroelectric energy, however, creates power from the movement of water itself. You will find hydroelectric energy being generated on rivers, through large dams, and in many other smaller methods as well. It is thanks to Lester Allan Pelton that the world has this method of power development.
Pelton didn’t just work on the process of generating power from moving water, however, because he is known as a very prolific inventor. Here is a brief look at some of his other inventions.
1. The Pelton Turbine
His most famous invention is a type of a free-jet water turbine that helped to increase the flow of water through a specific system. Pelton was born in 1829 in Ohio, but he moved to California as part of the gold rush and noticed immediately that there were rivers and streams flowing out of the mountains on a continuous basis. Wheels in water had been used before to power mills out East, so Pelton saw that the demands for power could be met with this water. His turbine used cups instead of flat panels to generate motion.
What made Pelton’s discovery so unique is that he based his designs on how the water would impact the wheel itself. The splashing of the water would hit the flat panels of traditional wheels and this would cause a high level of energy loss naturally. When Pelton looked at curving the panels, he realized that the water would splash less and his turbine would spin more quickly.
One other notable feature about his turbine is that it was a fraction of the size of other typical high-powered turbines of his day. He tested it in mining situations to improve power and efficiency and that’s ultimately how it rose to fame.
2. Energy Conservation
Although the idea of global warming was only in its infancy stages during Pelton’s lifetime and often dismissed as crackpot science if it was ever brought up, the fact remained that the billowing plumes coming from coal plants was bothersome to many communities. Pelton thought there had to be a better way, which is why he began adjusting his Pelton turbine to become more efficient. By being able to conserve energy, it could be possible to generate enough power to provide an actual grid with the electricity that they needed.
To do so, he began experimenting with his turbine to see if it could become more efficient. His cup model was eventually changed so that it had a double cup design instead of a single cup and this made his machine more than 90% efficient. The next competitor was just 76% efficient. That meant he had set the standard for hydroelectricity and energy conservation until the Turgo impulse wheel was invented nearly 40 years later – and even it was based on Pelton’s designs.
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