COST OF WATER-POWER IN HOLYOKE
Like other commodities which are bought and sold, water-power here has its own unit of measurement, called a mill-power, which is thus defined in the deeds of the Water Power Company:
In other words, one of these mill-powers is equivalent in round numbers, to sixty-five horse-powers, and when a site for mill or shop is taken, the requisite number of mill-powers is conveyed to the occupant by an indenture of perpetual lease, the form of which is never varied. The last purchaser takes the same rights in kind as those who have preceded him or those who will come after, until the sales shall have reached that safe limit of available power, which has been resolved upon. Having entered into such an indenture, the mill owner, relieved of all anxiety or expense of maintaining the dam and canals, confident of the permanence and safety of the great hydraulic system and secure in the guarantees of the corporation which controls it, pays his semi-annual rental, finds the canal always full at his head-gate, and makes his plans and contracts with the assurance that his due allowance of motive power will be always forthcoming a motive power which is furnished at a rate so cheap as to be almost nominal, when compared With the prevailing rates of rental in other parts of the country, or with steam-power, or with the cost of water-power derived of streams of the average size. If the cost of the dam and canals at Holyoke was large, the number of mill-powers obtained was still larger proportionally, thus reducing the cost of a single one far below the average outlay required to obtain the same amount of power by a dam and canal on a smaller stream; and the same principle applies to the expense of maintenance. The annual rental per mill-power is two hundred and sixty ounces of silver, of the standard fineness of the coinage of 1859, which is in practice paid in current funds, and amounts to about three hundred dollars per year or $4.62 per horse-power, an expense so small as to be hardly an appreciable item the cost of any manufacture. The prices charged for water-power vary so widely in different sections of the country, and the comparative value of such power depends so much on locality, accessibility and other natural conditions, that no stated comparison is here attempted between the annual rental above given and the ruling rates elsewhere; but if the reader takes the trouble to institute such a comparison, it will not only be found that the cost of water-power here is far less than the average rental throughout the country, whether paid as water rent or in the form of interest and maintenance, but also that to-day, all things considered, Holyoke affords the cheapest and most desirable manufacturing power in the world.
"Each mill-power at the respective falls is declared to be the right, during sixteen hours in a day, to draw from the nearest canal or water course of the grantors and through the land to be granted, thirty-eight cubic feet of water per second at the upper fall, when the head and fall there is twenty feet or a quantity inversely proportionate to the height at the other falls."
If such is the cheapness of power at this point, compared with water-power elsewhere, it is, perhaps, needless to speak at length of the relative cost of steam power, which is, of course, higher even in the localities most favorable for its use. Assuming, however, that steam is generated economically, and used in that very efficient form of steam-engine, known as the Cornish condensing engine, it will require the consumption of 2.38 pounds of coal per hour for each horse-power obtained, and if the price of coal be taken at six dollars per gross ton, the annual cost per horse-power will be $19.89, for ten hours use per day, against $4.62, the cost of the same power here, or more than four times as much, exclusive of expense of attendance, etc.
But not one in a hundred of those using steam-power obtains such economical results as are assumed above or even approximates them.
The report of the chief engineer of the Philadelphia Water-Works for 1875, gives data showing that the cost of raising water to their reservoirs by steam-power, coal being $5.12 per ton, exceeded the cost by water power, on the average, sixfold, and it can be safely asserted, on good authority, that the average cost of steam-power for manufacturing purposes in the United States, is at least seven times the cost of water-power here, making an aggregate saving in favor of the present mill-owners of Holyoke, of $200,000 a year.
From all that precedes, it must be evident that the constructions for creating and maintaining the water-power here, are safe and permanent beyond all hazard of failure; that the power obtained is steady and unfailing for every day and season of the year, and that the cost of motive-power is very much less than elsewhere; and all these considerations come in question in locating industrial enterprises, for, in the race for manufacturing success, the power sought for must be permanent, else the capital invested in mill and machinery is worse than idle, — unfailing, else when it fails, profit ceases and loss begins, —and cheap because its cost enters into the cost of every article produced.
Second only to these elements of availability, is the matter of ready access to the commercial centers, and the importance of cheap and rapid transportation to the business interests of Holyoke has not been lost sight of.
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