All power plants are created with one particular goal: to produce electric power as efficiently as possible. There are several types of power plants depending mainly on the sources of energy that are used. The introduction of more sustainable forms of energy has caused an increase in the improvement and creation of particular power plants.
Thermal power plants
Thermal power plants are split into two different categories; those that create electricity by burning fuel and those that generate electricity via prime mover:
- Fossil fuel power plants: Generates electric power by burning fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, or diesel.
- Nuclear power plants: The controlled nuclear reaction is maintained to generate electricity.
Hydroelectric power plants
Hydroelectric power plants use energy from falling water in rivers and reservoirs to spin a generator and create electricity. This energy source tends to be more reliable (dispatchable) than other renewable resources, especially when the facility runs off of a reservoir.
Solar power plants
Solar power plants convert sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV) or indirectly using concentrated solar power (CSP). Concentrated solar power systems use lenses, mirrors, and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam.
Wind power plants
Wind power plants / Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy from the wind into mechanical power. This mechanical power can be used for specific tasks (such as grinding grain or pumping water), or a generator can convert this mechanical power into electricity.
How do power plants work?
Electrical power starts at the power plant. In most cases, a power plant consists of an electric generator. Something has to spin that generator — it might be a water wheel in a hydroelectric dam, a large diesel engine, or a gas turbine. But in most cases, the object spinning the generator is a steam turbine. The steam might be created by burning coal, oil, or natural gas. Or the smoke may come from a nuclear reactor.