Man has used the power of water for centuries to turn tools and machines. Many of the pioneers of hydroelectricity worked in this region because they envisioned the enormous potential of Niagara Falls as a power source. Early power plants were mechanical in nature using water to turn machinery wheels. Later, wood, coal or fossil fuels were burned to create steam to turn those wheels. The important breakthrough came when scientists designed ways to use the spinning wheels to generate actual electricity. The first hydroelectric plants produced direct current – it was electricity that could only be transmitted along wires a short distance. Nikolai Tesla discovered that by alternating current, you could transmit the electricity over long distances. Power plants run on the same principles today as in the early 1900’s but with better materials and design, do it much more efficiently.