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Power plants are industrial facilities that generate electricity from primary energy sources, such as coal, natural gas, nuclear, solar, or wind energy.
Most power plants use one or more generators that convert mechanical energy into electrical energy.
The exception is solar power plants, that use photovoltaic cells (instead of a turbine) to generate electricity.
- Types of power plants
- How do power plants generate electricity?
- Power plant generator
- Power generation industry
- Power generation equipment
- Electric power station
Types of power plants
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 create electricity via prime mover:
- Fossil fuel power plants: Generates electric power by burning fossil fuels like coal, natural gas or diesel.
- Nuclear power plants: 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 are based on the conversion of 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 steam may come from a nuclear reactor.
How do power plants generate electricity?
Electricity is a secondary energy source, which means that electricity is obtained from the conversion of other primary sources of energy, such as coal, natural gas, nuclear, solar, or wind energy. The power plant is the location in which the energy conversions take place.
Power plant generator
Electricity generation is the process of generating electricity from primary energy sources, such as coal, natural gas, nuclear, solar, or wind energy.
The power plant generator is a device that converts mechanical energy obtained from an external source into electrical energy as the output. It is important to understand that a generator does not actually ‘create’ electrical energy. It uses the mechanical energy supplied to it to force the movement of electric charges present in the wire of its windings through an external electric circuit.
Power generation industry
The power generation industry can be split into three areas: power generation, transmission and distribution networks, and metering and sales. Large energy companies tend to operate in all three areas, as it is more cost effective, but smaller companies often only work in one of these areas.
Power generation equipment
In each plant, whether nuclear or fossil-fueled, the following basic power generation equipment is present:
- Heat source: Provides heat to generate steam. In a nuclear power plant, the heat source is the nuclear reactor, often referred to as the reactor core.
- Turbine/generator: Uses the energy of the steam to turn a turbine/generator that produces electricity.
- Condenser: Condenses the steam back to water so that it can be returned to the heat source to be heated again.
- Pump: Provides the force to circulate the water through the system.
Electric power station
Each electric power station’s technology has advantages and disadvantages. For example, nuclear power plants provide large quantities of reliable power with low levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil fuel power plants deliver on-demand, consistent and reliable energy when the resources are available. Hydro, solar and wind power plants generate renewable electricity, thereby delivering emissions-free electricity.
Articles about Power Generation
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