History of Electricity in Delta

Original black and white picture of Power and Light building


There is an unbelievable variety of uses for electricity in this world of industrialized craftsmanship, computerized automation of manufacturing functions, and instantaneous global communication. Electricity perks our coffee, provides warmth and light, aids in the preservation and preparation of foods, in addition to entertaining and teaching through devices like television, radio, and home computers. In fact, electrically-powered devices have become such an integral part of our lives that we seldom stop to think about its introduction into American communities.

In 1897 the members of a small, western Colorado community named Delta led a remarkably different life from that of the present. Light and heat were provided primarily by burning kerosene and wood. During a town meeting earlier that year the townspeople requested that the city council investigate a lighting system for public and commercial uses.

On April 21, 1897 the Delta City Council passed an ordinance to approve W.S. Bristol and R.B. Bushaw to put in an electric light plant and granted a 20 year franchise.

It is difficult to relate all of the factors involved in the original installation of a power supply to put electric lighting into homes and businesses as well as the city streets of Delta. Land, funding and equipment had to be secured for the power plat; then poles had to be set and transmission lines strung and connected. Paperwork and bureaucracy existed even then, slowing the installation and hookup process. Finally, electric lights were turned on for the first time in the City of Delta on New Year's Day in 1903. To say the least, the community found this new, convenient source of light to be a great improvement.

At the turn of the century, residents of Delta numbered about 800 and by 1910 the population had almost tripled. By the mid-1930's the city's populace had surpassed 3,000 and the need for additional electrical supply became increasingly apparent.

As 1933 drew to a close, the taxpayers requested that the city's commissioners investigate the possibilities for federal funding of a municipal power plant. The Municipal Electric Light and Power System of the city of Delta was established in 1935. By 1938, three small Fairbanks-Morse diesel generators had been installed in the power plant. Two of these units were three-cylinder, 125kW engine/generators; the third was a four-cylinder, 172kW engine/generator.

Between 1939 and 1956 four additional Fairbanks-Morse engine/generator units of greater output were purchased and installed. These four units were later converted to use natural gas as well as diesel fuel. The seven generators provide a total output of 4989kW.

Although the population of the city of Delta remained the same from about 1940 to 1990, electrical usage had increased considerable both in homes and in business establishments. As technology improved the area's quality of life, the community's electrical usage required that the Delta power plant purchase additional electricity from neighboring utilities. This tie-in occurred in 1967, requiring the installation of a substation behind the existing plant.

All of the generators are equipped with original Woodward governors. Six of the units are equipped with Woodward's first diesel governing device-the IC governor; the seventh unit has Woodward UG32 dial governor. IC governors were developed in the 1930's and were Woodward's initial entry into the market of diesel engine controlling devices. This governor's design and many of its parts were based on hydraulic turbine gateshaft and Type A actuators. Most of the IC governors were custom-built to suit the application and customer's specifications.

Following the introduction of the IC governor, a variety of governors were developed and refined to better accommodate the diversity of engine types and applications. The UG32 governor entered our line of diesel controlling devices in 1940 and was a variation of UG8, which was developed previously.

The Fairbanks-Morse engine/generators with Woodward governors have provided an effective power source to the residents of Delta for nearly half a century - an enviable record by any standard. It should be noted that superior attention has been given to proper maintenance of the power plant and its equipment. This is a tribute to the staff of the Delta Municipal Light and Power Systems, both past and present, as well as the equipment manufacturers.

The Power Plant is no longer operational. The City of Delta purchases their power.