School News: A Hydroelectric Powerhouse Comes Back to Life

Winter 2019

In 1883, Thomas Edison’s company installed electricity at the Miller School of Albemarle (VA), just three years after Edison perfected the technology. The school’s Edison powerhouse has not produced electricity since the 1950s—until now.


The hydroelectric powerhouse at Miller School of Albemarle will power pumps and grow
lamps of a new hydroponic garden. Photo by Jack Looney

Under the direction of engineering teacher Ryan Henry, several students brought the hydroelectric powerhouse back to life this past fall. The electricity produced will be used to power the pumps and grow lamps of a new hydroponic garden.

The powerhouse will be a modern research lab where students engage in hands-on study of power production, turbine operation, and AC electricity generation. Students will also research pH levels in water, study plant nutrition, and experiment with lettuce varieties.

The project has been a community effort from the start. Miller School’s food service provider donated $25,000 and will use the produce in school meals. Miller trustee and alumnus John McMahon, who owns a greenhouse nearby, donated the initial hydroponic equipment. Head of school J. Michael Drude envisions the hydroelectric, hydroponic garden as the first step toward a larger, schoolwide environmental program.

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