In PIONEERING POWER, documentary filmmaker and PBS independent producer Jay Kriss and his team explore the beginnings of electrical power and it’s unlikely start in the remote mountains of Colorado.
The film tells the untold story of the men who faced seemingly insurmountable odds to develop a new technology, persevering with a spirit that lit the nation.
In the late 1800s, the early days of electric power introduced the Greats: Edison, Westinghouse, and Tesla. Their initial breakthroughs created webs of power lines that produced weak power with limited transmission capabilities. For most, practical electricity was little more than a fantasy. But while industry icons engaged in the war of the electric currents, arguing the safety and benefits of DC vs. AC, the men at nine thousand feet in Colorado’s mountains cut through the talk with action. Desperate for power to run their mining equipment, they risked everything to take technology to the next level.
Using Tesla’s technology and aided by Westinghouse, they built and operated the first commercial alternating-current transmission system utilizing high voltage for power purposes, not just for light. Their hydroelectric power plant at Ames Colorado was the first facility of it’s kind in the world, and it was only the beginning. L.L. and Paul Nunn expanded and improved their groundbreaking system across the West in the most difficult conditions and terrain imaginable. Their emerging technology would have to function despite ice storms, avalanches, mountain lightning storms, and hostile competitors.
These early pioneers innovated through the challenges, largely without due credit. Drawing from the photographs, letters, and interviews with the men and families of those who “strung the wire,” viewers get a first-hand account of what it cost, in human terms, to build our modern electric grid. Present-day footage of the lines, the power stations, the water pipes or “flumes,” and the ruggedness of the area help to tell this unique story of the West and the pioneering spirit of those who paved the way to power a nation.
help make this film possible
Your generous contribution is what makes PIONEERING POWER possible. Stories like these simply cannot be told without your support. Your donation through Colorado Public Television is tax-deductible and will be dedicated to making the documentary films about our history as well as creating educational outreach programs and materials. PIONEERING POWER benefits from CPT12’s decades of experience in Public Television broadcasting, production and administration.