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Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park is a historical site located in Folsommarker near Sacramentomarker, Californiamarker, in the United Statesmarker. Built in the late 1800s by the Natoma Water and Mining Company and prison labor from Folsom Prisonmarker, the hydroelelectric powerhouse first delivered power to Sacramento in 1895. The powerplant remained in operation until 1952. Pacific Gas and Electric donated the plant to the State of California, which designated the site as State Historic Site Number #633.[254515] It was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1981.

A diversion canal took water from the American River to four 8-foot tall, 750-kilowatt generators that were manufactured by General Electric Company via four 8-foot diameter penstocks. Only two of the four generators were operating on July 13, 1895 when the powerhouse provided the first electricity to Sacramento via 22-miles of transmission lines, making it the first place in the United States to transmit long-distance hydroelectric power [254516]. On September 9, 1895 the new power provided by the powerhouse resulted in a "Grand Electric Carnival" celebration by decorating the state capital with thousands of light bulbs.[254517]

A second powerhouse was constructed below the original facility in 1897 to house an additional 750-kilowatt generator to meet the growing residential and public transit electricity demands of Sacramento. By the early 1900s the demand for electricity in Sacramento had out paced the capacity of the expanded Folsom Powerhouse, thus larger powerplants were built along the Yuba, Feather, and Tuolumne Rivers in order to provide power for Northern California. The San Franciscomarker-based California Gas and Electric Company bought the Folsom Powerhouse by 1902. When the company was reorganized into Pacific Gas and Electric in 1906, it retooled the powerplant and forebay.

The Folsom Powerhouse was the second powerhouse on the American River. Folsom State Prison first harnessed the river to complete its own hydroelectric powerplant in 1893.

Additional materials


  1. This predates Niagara Falls transmission to Buffalo in 1897, but see International Electro-Technical Exhibition - 1891 for an earlier instance of transmission of hydroelectric power.

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