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Service d'Études des grandes Forces hydrauliques (Région des Alpes), Annales de la Direction de l'Hydraulique

Nature volume 78, pages 12 (07 May 1908) | Download Citation



MOUNTAINOUS countries are ill adapted for convenience in travel and transport, but as some compensation for this drawback, Nature has endowed them with a signal benefit of another and equally important kind. She has placed at the disposal of the inhabitants a form of energy which is not only readily utilisable, but in the majority of instances is cheap and plentiful, and, it may be added, is also picturesque. The numerous streams of water which streak the mountain sides like veins of silver ore, or which “like a downward smoke, Slow dropping veils of thinnest lawn,” spread themselves over the ledges of precipitous cliffs, possess a wonderful commercial value. They are, indeed, to be reckoned among the most utilitarian assets and resources of a country, side by side with coal, iron, and other such serviceable minerals, while they possess the additional advantage that their application to industrial purposes is readily effected, and is almost as unlimited in scope as the supply is, apparently, inexhaustible. The French have poetically referred to the latent wealth of these mountain streams as la houille blanche (white coal), and coal they surely are, to all intents and purposes, for when diverted into proper channels, do they not serve to actuate wheels and vanes, motors and turbines, setting in useful motion a wide range of plant and machinery as effectively as coal itself, without the complicated series of transformations required before the latter is converted into horse-power units?

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