Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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GEC: Electricity Generation and Transmission

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1928. Aldwych automatic substation equipment, including 750 kW rotary convertors
1934.G.E.C. Laboratory.
May 1944.
November 1944
March 1945.
1947. 2.5 million volt surge generator.
July 1949.
1951. Metalclad Switchgear.
1951. Metalclad Circuit Breaker.
June 1953.
1954. Six anode steel tank rectifier.

Note: This is a sub-section of GEC


1914 Undertook complete central station equipment [1]

1914 Formation of Pirelli-General Cable Works joint venture

1918 GEC acquired the ordinary shares in Chamberlain and Hookham, meter manufacturers, and the turbine works of Fraser and Chalmers[2].

Post-war purchase of some small companies, such as Fraser-Chalmers Turbine Co, enabled GEC to attack the markets for heavy plant at very low prices.

1930 Development of high voltage switchgear and higher rated transformers for the National Grid. Contracts for the Manchester-Altrincham electrification and other railway projects; orders for ships with electrified propulsion[3].

1930 Turbo-electric propulsion plant ordered for installation in a Furness, Withy and Co ship for the New York-Bermuda service, to be constructed by Vickers-Armstrong at their Naval Yard at Walker. Comprised two high-pressure turbine-alternator units and four propulsion motors, with a designed service output of 18,700 SHP and a maximum output of 20,000 SHP. Turbines to be built at the Fraser and Chalmers Works, Erith, and the alternators and motors at the GEC Witton works.[4]

Bushing Co was a joint venture with Reyrolles

1939 GEC's Witton factory was keeping pace with developments in transformers, faster-acting switch gear and traction equipment. Railway electrification business was won, both at home and abroad. Siemens and General Electric Railway Signal Co had experienced a busy year[5].

1955 One of four industrial groups formed to exploit the information being made available by UKAEA on design of nuclear power "furnaces" - GEC and Simon-CarvesLtd[6].

1956 GEC-Simon Carves Atomic Energy Group received the order for one of 3 nuclear power stations (at Hunterston) ordered by the Central Electricity Authority. GEC was to be main contractor[7].

1959 After discussions between GEC-Simon-Carves Ltd-Atomic Power Group and Atomic Power Constructions Ltd, the 2 groups agreed to collaborate on the design and construction of nuclear power stations. The two groups would submit joint tenders for the Dungeness power station[8].

1965[9]. As a response to the CEGB's policy of restricting orders for turbine-generators to just two designs (when there were 4 manufacturers), C. A. Parsons and Co bought the turbine and generator businesses of GEC[10]. After a time, the turbine factory at Erith and the generator factory at Witton were closed and production was transferred to Newcastle.

1967 GEC acquired Associated Electrical Industries (AEI). The GEC Switchgear business brought together the corresponding businesses from the 2 companies; GEC Switchgear and AEI: Switchgear were rapidly integrated. The combined transformer business would be concentrated at AEI's Wythenshawe factory. AEI Turbine Generators had won 2 large orders from USA, one involving gas turbines that would be built at Trafford Park; there were also orders from UK and marine orders (in the late 1960s AEI had re-entered the market for geared steam turbine propulsion systems for merchant ships). AEI Large Electrical Machines had suffered from a lack of orders[11]

1968 GEC merged with the English Electric Co. This merger would give "The General Electric and English Electric Companies Limited" almost exactly half of the turbo-generator business. On 6th September the two companies issued a joint statement announcing that ‘a total merger should be effected between them ... under the chairmanship of Lord Nelson with Arnold Weinstock as managing director’.

1969 GEC Power Engineering was formed which included[12]:

GEC had 9 other product divisions including 6 foundries

1972 English Electric-AEI Turbines received support for a project from government programme for the machine tool industry [13]

1975 GEC Power Engineering Ltd was one of 5 main UK subsidiaries which itself had subsidiaries[14]:

1978 GEC Switchgear Ltd became GEC High Voltage Switchgear Ltd

1988 Acquired Long and Crawford, which had about half of the British market for secondary distribution switchgear, from Cope Allman [15].

1989 GEC Alsthom was formed as a 50/50 joint venture by the merger of the power and transport divisions of Compagnie Générale d'Electricité (CGE) and GEC. From CGE's point of views, France’s market was not sufficient by itself so the merger would enable GEC Alsthom to address the whole of Europe. From GEC's point of view it provided GEC's power division with access to large gas turbine technology (which it had previously been licensing from GE of the U.S.A. and which was increasingly demanded by the privatised electricity companies in the UK and elsewhere).

1989 Virtually all of the power systems activities, which included power generation, transmission and distribution, transportation and automation and control (excluding weighing equipment) were included in the joint venture with Alsthom.[16]

Examples of UK Power Stations with pre-1968 GEC Steam Turbine-Generators

Note: Includes turbines made by Fraser and Chalmers or made in the Fraser & Chalmers works in Erith after acquisition by GEC. Excludes turbines made by GEC after they returned to the turbine-generator business after acquiring AEI and English Electric.

PS = Power Station
TA = Turbine-alternator unit
HP =High Pressure
LP = Low Pressure
Dates are, generally, approximate commissioning dates

Note: Many power stations contained turbine-generators from a variety of makers. Only GEC sets listed below.

Bury Chamber Hall PS: One Fraser and Chalmers-GEC 6 MW TA, 6.6 kV (1921); one Fraser and Chalmers/GEC 10 MW, 6.6 kV (1924)

Huddersfield PS: Two 30 MW TAs, 11.8 kV

Huncoat PS: Five Fraser & Chalmers-GEC 32 MW TAs, 11 kV (early 1950s)

Ince 'A' PS: Four GEC 60 MW TAs, 12.8 kV (1954-56)

Lombard Road PS (Battersea): Three Fraser & Chalmers-GEC TAs - 5, 10 & 30 MW, 6.6 kV (early 1930s)

Northfleet PS: Six 120 MW TAs (early 1960s)

Poole PS: Two 60 MW TAs (1950s)

Poplar PS: One 10 MW TA

Portsmouth PS Two Fraser & Chalmers-GEC 10 MW TAs (1927-29)

Sculcoates PS: One 25 MW TA, 6.6 kV

Tilbury 'B' PS: Check

Uskmouth 'A' PS

Woolwich PS: LP - one 12.5 MW TA. 6.6 kV (1920s); IP - three 34.5 MW TAs, 22 kV (1940s); HP - two 30 MW TAs, 22 kV (1952–57). All Fraser & Chalmers-GEC

Note: A number of turbine-alternators designed by GEC and manufactured largely at Erith and Witton in the late 1960s were badged as 'Parsons', being made after the takeover of the turbine-generator business by C. A. Parsons and Co. These included four 350 MW TAs for Tilbury 'B'[17], four 500 MW TAs at Kingsnorth, four 500 MW TAs at Didcot, and two 660 MW TAs at Dungeness 'B' were badged as Parsons. Article on the design of the GEC 500 MW turbines here.

Examples of Overseas Power Stations with pre-1968 GEC Steam Turbine-Generators

Kelvin Power Station (South Africa): Six 30 MW TAs (c.1957); four 60 MW TAs (c.1963) [18]

Orlando Power Station (South Africa): Five 50 MW TAs (1953-5)

Examples of Generators for Hydro-Electric Plant

Maragua Development Scheme, East African Power & Lighting Co: Two 2 MW horizontal alternators [19]

Tummel Hydro PS: Two 21.25 MW horizontal alternators [20]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  2. The Times, 9 July 1918
  3. The Times, 26 June 1930
  4. [1] 21 March 1930, p.315
  5. The Times, 30 June 1939
  6. The Times, 17 March 1955
  7. The Times, 14 December 1956
  8. The Times, 25 September 1959
  9. The Times, 22 February 1969
  10. The Times, 27 May 1968
  11. The Times July 30, 1968
  12. The Times, 10 January 1969
  13. The Times, Mar 15, 1972
  14. 1975 Annual report
  15. The Times, August 06, 1988
  16. MMC report 1989
  17. [2] Power Stations of the UK - Tilbury B Power Station – Turbines
  18. [3] Global Energy Observatory: Individual Units for Coal in South Africa
  19. Rugby Advertiser - Friday 15 January 1932
  20. Rugby Advertiser - Friday 15 January 1932