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A power station, also referred to as a power plant and sometimes generating station or generating plant, is an industrial facility for the generation of electric power. Power stations are generally connected to an electrical grid.
Many power stations contain one or more generators, a rotating machine that converts mechanical power into three-phase electric power. The relative motion between a magnetic field and a conductor creates an electric current.
The energy source harnessed to turn the generator varies widely. Most power stations in the world burn fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas to generate electricity. Clean energy sources include nuclear power, and an increasing use of renewables such as solar, wind, wave, geothermal, and hydroelectric.
In the early 1871s Belgian inventor Zénobe Gramme invented a generator powerful enough to produce power on a commercial scale for industry.
In 1878, a hydroelectric power station was designed and built by William, Lord Armstrong at Cragside, England. It used water from lakes on his estate to power Siemens dynamos. The electricity supplied power to lights, heating, produced hot water, ran an elevator as well as labor-saving devices and farm buildings.
In the autumn of 1881, a central station providing public power was built in Godalming, England. It was proposed after the town failed to reach an agreement on the rate charged by the gas company, so the town council decided to use electricity. It used hydroelectric power for street lighting and household lighting. The system was not a commercial success and the town reverted to gas.
In 1882 the world's first coal-fired public power station, the Edison Electric Light Station, was built in London, a project of Thomas Edison organized by Edward Johnson. A Babcock & Wilcox boiler powered a 93 kW (125 horsepower) steam engine that drove a 27 tonnes (27 long tons) generator. This supplied electricity to premises in the area that could be reached through the culverts of the viaduct without digging up the road, which was the monopoly of the gas companies. The customers included the City Temple and the Old Bailey. Another important customer was the Telegraph Office of the General Post Office, but this could not be reached through the culverts. Johnson arranged for the supply cable to be run overhead, via Holborn Tavern and Newgate.
In September 1882 in New York, the Pearl Street Station was established by Edison to provide electric lighting in the lower Manhattan Island area. The station ran until destroyed by fire in 1890. The station used reciprocating steam engines to turn direct-current generators. Because of the DC distribution, the service area was small, limited by voltage drop in the feeders. In 1886 George Westinghouse began building an alternating current system that used a transformer to step up voltage for long-distance transmission and then stepped it back down for indoor lighting, a more efficient and less expensive system which is similar to modern systems. The war of the currents eventually resolved in favor of AC distribution and utilization, although some DC systems persisted to the end of the 20th century. DC systems with a service radius of a mile (kilometer) or so were necessarily smaller, less efficient of fuel consumption, and more labor-intensive to operate than much larger central AC generating stations.
AC systems used a wide range of frequencies depending on the type of load; lighting load using higher frequencies, and traction systems and heavy motor load systems preferring lower frequencies. The economics of central station generation improved greatly when unified light and power systems, operating at a common frequency, were developed. The same generating plant that fed large industrial loads during the day, could feed commuter railway systems during rush hour and then serve lighting load in the evening, thus improving the system load factor and reducing the cost of electrical energy overall. Many exceptions existed, generating stations were dedicated to power or light by the choice of frequency, and rotating frequency changers and rotating converters were particularly common to feed electric railway systems from the general lighting and power network.
Throughout the first few decades of the 20th century central stations became larger, using higher steam pressures to provide greater efficiency, and relying on interconnections of multiple generating stations to improve reliability and cost. High-voltage AC transmission allowed hydroelectric power to be conveniently moved from distant waterfalls to city markets. The advent of the steam turbine in central station service, around 1906, allowed great expansion of generating capacity. Generators were no longer limited by the power transmission of belts or the relatively slow speed of reciprocating engines, and could grow to enormous sizes. For example, Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti planned what would have been the largest reciprocating steam engine ever built for a proposed new central station, but scrapped the plans when turbines became available in the necessary size. Building power systems out of central stations required combinations of engineering skill and financial acumen in equal measure. Pioneers of central station generation include George Westinghouse and Samuel Insull in the United States, Ferranti and Charles Hesterman Merz in UK, and many others.
In thermal power stations, mechanical power is produced by a heat engine that transforms thermal energy, often from combustion of a fuel, into rotational energy. Most thermal power stations produce steam, so they are sometimes called steam power stations. Not all thermal energy can be transformed into mechanical power, according to the second law of thermodynamics; therefore, there is always heat lost to the environment. If this loss is employed as useful heat, for industrial processes or district heating, the power plant is referred to as a cogeneration power plant or CHP (combined heat-and-power) plant. In countries where district heating is common, there are dedicated heat plants called heat-only boiler stations. An important class of power stations in the Middle East uses by-product heat for the desalination of water.
The efficiency of a thermal power cycle is limited by the maximum working fluid temperature produced. The efficiency is not directly a function of the fuel used. For the same steam conditions, coal-, nuclear- and gas power plants all have the same theoretical efficiency. Overall, if a system is on constantly (base load) it will be more efficient than one that is used intermittently (peak load). Steam turbines generally operate at higher efficiency when operated at full capacity.
Besides use of reject heat for process or district heating, one way to improve overall efficiency of a power plant is to combine two different thermodynamic cycles in a combined cycle plant. Most commonly, exhaust gases from a gas turbine are used to generate steam for a boiler and a steam turbine. The combination of a "top" cycle and a "bottom" cycle produces higher overall efficiency than either cycle can attain alone.
In 2018, Inter RAO UES and State Grid planed to build an 8-GW thermal power plant,which's the largest coal-fired power plant construction project in Russia.
Power plants that can be dispatched (scheduled) to provide energy to a system include:
Non-dispatchable plants include such sources as wind and solar energy; while their long-term contribution to system energy supply is predictable, on a short-term (daily or hourly) base their energy must be used as available since generation cannot be deferred. Contractual arrangements ("take or pay") with independent power producers or system interconnections to other networks may be effectively non-dispatchable.
All thermal power plants produce waste heat energy as a byproduct of the useful electrical energy produced. The amount of waste heat energy equals or exceeds the amount of energy converted into useful electricity. Gas-fired power plants can achieve as much as 65 percent conversion efficiency, while coal and oil plants achieve around 30 to 49 percent. The waste heat produces a temperature rise in the atmosphere, which is small compared to that produced by greenhouse-gas emissions from the same power plant. Natural draft wet cooling towers at many nuclear power plants and large fossil fuel-fired power plants use large hyperboloid chimney-like structures (as seen in the image at the right) that release the waste heat to the ambient atmosphere by the evaporation of water.
However, the mechanical induced-draft or forced-draft wet cooling towers in many large thermal power plants, nuclear power plants, fossil-fired power plants, petroleum refineries, petrochemical plants, geothermal, biomass and waste-to-energy plants use fans to provide air movement upward through downcoming water, and are not hyperboloid chimney-like structures. The induced or forced-draft cooling towers are typically rectangular, box-like structures filled with a material that enhances the mixing of the upflowing air and the downflowing water.
In areas with restricted water use, a dry cooling tower or directly air-cooled radiators may be necessary, since the cost or environmental consequences of obtaining make-up water for evaporative cooling would be prohibitive. These coolers have lower efficiency and higher energy consumption to drive fans, compared to a typical wet, evaporative cooling tower.
Electric companies often prefer to use cooling water from the ocean, a lake, or a river, or a cooling pond, instead of a cooling tower. This single pass or once-through cooling system can save the cost of a cooling tower and may have lower energy costs for pumping cooling water through the plant's heat exchangers. However, the waste heat can cause thermal pollution as the water is discharged. Power plants using natural bodies of water for cooling are designed with mechanisms such as fish screens, to limit intake of organisms into the cooling machinery. These screens are only partially effective and as a result billions of fish and other aquatic organisms are killed by power plants each year.For example, the cooling system at the Indian Point Energy Center in New York kills over a billion fish eggs and larvae annually.
A further environmental impact is that aquatic organisms which adapt to the warmer discharge water may be injured if the plant shuts down in cold weather.
Water consumption by power stations is a developing issue.
In recent years, recycled wastewater, or grey water, has been used in cooling towers. The Calpine Riverside and the Calpine Fox power stations in Wisconsin as well as the Calpine Mankato power station in Minnesota are among these facilities.
Power stations can generate electrical energy from renewable energy sources.
In a hydroelectric power station water flows through turbines using hydropower to generate hydroelectricity. Power is captured from the gravitational force of water falling through penstocks to water turbines connected to generators. The amount of power available is a combination of height and flow. A wide range of Dams may be built to raise the water level, and create a lake for storing water. Hydropower is produced in 150 countries, with the Asia-Pacific region generating 32 percent of global hydropower in 2010. China is the largest hydroelectricity producer, with 721 terawatt-hours of production in 2010, representing around 17 percent of domestic electricity use.
Solar energy can be turned into electricity either directly in solar cells, or in a concentrating solar power plant by focusing the light to run a heat engine.
A solar photovoltaic power plant converts sunlight into direct current electricity using the photoelectric effect. Inverters change the direct current into alternating current for connection to the electrical grid. This type of plant does not use rotating machines for energy conversion.
Solar thermal power plants use either parabolic troughs or heliostats to direct sunlight onto a pipe containing a heat transfer fluid, such as oil. The heated oil is then used to boil water into steam, which turns a turbine that drives an electrical generator. The central tower type of solar thermal power plant uses hundreds or thousands of mirrors, depending on size, to direct sunlight onto a receiver on top of a tower. The heat is used to produce steam to turn turbines that drive electrical generators.
Wind turbines can be used to generate electricity in areas with strong, steady winds, sometimes offshore. Many different designs have been used in the past, but almost all modern turbines being produced today use a three-bladed, upwind design.Grid-connected wind turbines now being built are much larger than the units installed during the 1970s. They thus produce power more cheaply and reliably than earlier models. With larger turbines (on the order of one megawatt), the blades move more slowly than older, smaller, units, which makes them less visually distracting and safer for birds.
Marine energy or marine power (also sometimes referred to as ocean energy or ocean power) refers to the energy carried by ocean waves, tides, salinity, and ocean temperature differences. The movement of water in the world's oceans creates a vast store of kinetic energy, or energy in motion. This energy can be harnessed to generate electricity to power homes, transport and industries.
The term marine energy encompasses both wave power — power from surface waves, and tidal power — obtained from the kinetic energy of large bodies of moving water. Offshore wind power is not a form of marine energy, as wind power is derived from the wind, even if the wind turbines are placed over water.
The oceans have a tremendous amount of energy and are close to many if not most concentrated populations. Ocean energy has the potential of providing a substantial amount of new renewable energy around the world.
Salinity gradient energy is called pressure-retarded osmosis. In this method, seawater is pumped into a pressure chamber that is at a pressure lower than the difference between the pressures of saline water and fresh water. Freshwater is also pumped into the pressure chamber through a membrane, which increases both the volume and pressure of the chamber. As the pressure differences are compensated, a turbine is spun creating energy. This method is being specifically studied by the Norwegian utility Statkraft, which has calculated that up to 25 TWh/yr would be available from this process in Norway. Statkraft has built the world's first prototype osmotic power plant on the Oslo fjord which was opened on 24 November 2009. In January 2014 however Statkraft announced not to continue this pilot.
Biomass energy can be produced from combustion of waste green material to heat water into steam and drive a steam turbine. Bioenergy can also be processed through a range of temperatures and pressures in gasification, pyrolysis or torrefaction reactions. Depending on the desired end product, these reactions create more energy-dense products (syngas, wood pellets, biocoal) that can then be fed into an accompanying engine to produce electricity at a much lower emission rate when compared with open burning.
It is possible to store energy and produce the electricity at a later time like in Pumped-storage hydroelectricity, Thermal energy storage, Flywheel energy storage, Battery storage power station and so on.
The world's largest form of storage for excess electricity, pumped-storage is a reversible hydroelectric plant. They are a net consumer of energy but provide storage for any source of electricity, effectively smoothing peaks and troughs in electricity supply and demand. Pumped storage plants typically use "spare" electricity during off peak periods to pump water from a lower reservoir to an upper reservoir. Because the pumping takes place "off peak", electricity is less valuable than at peak times. This less valuable "spare" electricity comes from uncontrolled wind power and base load power plants such as coal, nuclear and geothermal, which still produce power at night even though demand is very low. During daytime peak demand, when electricity prices are high, the storage is used for peaking power, where water in the upper reservoir is allowed to flow back to a lower reservoir through a turbine and generator. Unlike coal power stations, which can take more than 12 hours to start up from cold, a hydroelectric generator can be brought into service in a few minutes, ideal to meet a peak load demand. Two substantial pumped storage schemes are in South Africa, Palmiet Pumped Storage Scheme and another in the Drakensberg, Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme.
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The power generated by a power station is measured in multiples of the watt, typically megawatts (106 watts) or gigawatts (109 watts). Power stations vary greatly in capacity depending on the type of power plant and on historical, geographical and economic factors. The following examples offer a sense of the scale.
Many of the largest operational onshore wind farms are located in the USA. As of 2011, the Roscoe Wind Farm is the second largest onshore wind farm in the world, producing 781.5 MW of power, followed by the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center (735.5 MW). As of July 2013, the London Array in United Kingdom is the largest offshore wind farm in the world at 630 MW, followed by Thanet Offshore Wind Project in United Kingdom at 300 MW.
As of 2015 [update] , the largest photovoltaic (PV) power plants in the world are led by Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in China, rated at 850 megawatts.
Solar thermal power stations in the U.S. have the following output:
Large coal-fired, nuclear, and hydroelectric power stations can generate hundreds of megawatts to multiple gigawatts. Some examples:
Gas turbine power plants can generate tens to hundreds of megawatts. Some examples:
The rated capacity of a power station is nearly the maximum electrical power that the power station can produce. Some power plants are run at almost exactly their rated capacity all the time, as a non-load-following base load power plant, except at times of scheduled or unscheduled maintenance.
However, many power plants usually produce much less power than their rated capacity.
In some cases a power plant produces much less power than its rated capacity because it uses an intermittent energy source. Operators try to pull maximum available power from such power plants, because their marginal cost is practically zero, but the available power varies widely—in particular, it may be zero during heavy storms at night.
In some cases operators deliberately produce less power for economic reasons. The cost of fuel to run a load following power plant may be relatively high, and the cost of fuel to run a peaking power plant is even higher—they have relatively high marginal costs. Operators keep power plants turned off ("operational reserve") or running at minimum fuel consumption[ citation needed ] ("spinning reserve") most of the time. Operators feed more fuel into load following power plants only when the demand rises above what lower-cost plants (i.e., intermittent and base load plants) can produce, and then feed more fuel into peaking power plants only when the demand rises faster than the load following power plants can follow.
Operating staff at a power station have several duties. Operators are responsible for the safety of the work crews that frequently do repairs on the mechanical and electrical equipment. They maintain the equipment with periodic inspections and log temperatures, pressures and other important information at regular intervals. Operators are responsible for starting and stopping the generators depending on need. They are able to synchronize and adjust the voltage output of the added generation with the running electrical system, without upsetting the system. They must know the electrical and mechanical systems to troubleshoot problems in the facility and add to the reliability of the facility. Operators must be able to respond to an emergency and know the procedures in place to deal with it.
Electricity generation is the process of generating electric power from sources of primary energy. For utilities in the electric power industry, it is the stage prior to its delivery to end users or its storage.
A nuclear power plant is a thermal power station in which the heat source is a nuclear reactor. As is typical of thermal power stations, heat is used to generate steam that drives a steam turbine connected to a generator that produces electricity. As of 2018, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported there were 450 nuclear power reactors in operation in 30 countries.
Distributed generation, also distributed energy, on-site generation (OSG), or district/decentralized energy, is electrical generation and storage performed by a variety of small, grid-connected or distribution system-connected devices referred to as distributed energy resources (DER).
A combined cycle power plant is an assembly of heat engines that work in tandem from the same source of heat, converting it into mechanical energy. On land, when used to make electricity the most common type is called a combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plant. The same principle is also used for marine propulsion, where it is called a combined gas and steam (COGAS) plant. Combining two or more thermodynamic cycles improves overall efficiency, which reduces fuel costs.
Electric power systems consist of generation plants of different energy sources, transmission networks, and distribution lines. Each of these components can have environmental impacts at multiple stages of their development and use including in their construction, during the generation of electricity, and in their decommissioning and disposal. We can split these impacts into operational impacts and construction impacts. This page looks exclusively at the operational environmental impact of electricity generation. The page is organized by energy source and includes impacts such as water usage, emissions, local pollution, and wildlife displacement.
Cogeneration or combined heat and power (CHP) is the use of a heat engine or power station to generate electricity and useful heat at the same time. Trigeneration or combined cooling, heat and power (CCHP) refers to the simultaneous generation of electricity and useful heating and cooling from the combustion of a fuel or a solar heat collector. The terms cogeneration and trigeneration can also be applied to the power systems simultaneously generating electricity, heat, and industrial chemicals.
A fossil fuel power station is a thermal power station which burns a fossil fuel, such as coal or natural gas, to produce electricity. Fossil fuel power stations have machinery to convert the heat energy of combustion into mechanical energy, which then operates an electrical generator. The prime mover may be a steam turbine, a gas turbine or, in small plants, a reciprocating gas engine. All plants use the energy extracted from expanding gas, either steam or combustion gases. Although different energy conversion methods exist, all thermal power station conversion methods have efficiency limited by the Carnot efficiency and therefore produce waste heat.
Grid energy storage is a collection of methods used for energy storage on a large scale within an electrical power grid. Electrical energy is stored during times when electricity is plentiful and inexpensive or when demand is low, and later returned to the grid when demand is high, and electricity prices tend to be higher.
Peaking power plants, also known as peaker plants, and occasionally just "peakers", are power plants that generally run only when there is a high demand, known as peak demand, for electricity. Because they supply power only occasionally, the power supplied commands a much higher price per kilowatt hour than base load power. Peak load power plants are dispatched in combination with base load power plants, which supply a dependable and consistent amount of electricity, to meet the minimum demand.
A thermal power station is a power station in which heat energy is converted to electric power. In most, a steam-driven turbine converts heat to mechanical power as an intermediate to electrical power. Water is heated, turns into steam and drives a steam turbine which drives an electrical generator. After it passes through the turbine the steam is condensed in a condenser and recycled to where it was heated. This is known as a Rankine cycle. The greatest variation in the design of thermal power stations is due to the different heat sources: fossil fuel, nuclear energy, solar energy, biofuels, and waste incineration are all used. Certain thermal power stations are also designed to produce heat for industrial purposes, for district heating, or desalination of water, in addition to generating electrical power.
The steam-electric power station is a power station in which the electric generator is steam driven. Water is heated, turns into steam and spins a steam turbine which drives an electrical generator. After it passes through the turbine, the steam is condensed in a condenser. The greatest variation in the design of steam-electric power plants is due to the different fuel sources.
The net capacity factor is the unitless ratio of an actual electrical energy output over a given period of time to the maximum possible electrical energy output over that period. The capacity factor is defined for any electricity producing installation, such as a fuel consuming power plant or one using renewable energy, such as wind or the sun. The average capacity factor can also be defined for any class of such installations, and can be used to compare different types of electricity production.
A load following power plant, regarded as producing mid-merit or mid-priced electricity, is a power plant that adjusts its power output as demand for electricity fluctuates throughout the day. Load following plants are typically in-between base load and peaking power plants in efficiency, speed of start up and shut down, construction cost, cost of electricity and capacity factor.
There are several solar power plants in the Mojave Desert which supply power to the electricity grid. Insolation in the Mojave Desert is among the best available in the United States, and some significant population centers are located in the area. These plants can generally be built in a few years because solar plants are built almost entirely with modular, readily available materials. Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) is the name given to nine solar power plants in the Mojave Desert which were built in the 1980s, the first commercial solar plant. These plants have a combined capacity of 354 megawatts (MW) which made them the largest solar power installation in the world, until Ivanpah Solar Power Facility was finished in 2014.
Energy technology is an interdisciplinary engineering science having to do with the efficient, safe, environmentally friendly, and economical extraction, conversion, transportation, storage, and use of energy, targeted towards yielding high efficiency whilst skirting side effects on humans, nature, and the environment.
The West Springfield Generating Station, also known by its corporate name EP Energy Massachusetts, LLC, is a fossil-fuel-fired power plant located in West Springfield, Massachusetts. The station is a "peaking" facility, meaning that it primarily operates during peak electrical demand. The facility consists of two 49-megawatt (MW) combustion turbine generators fueled by natural gas or ultra low-sulphur diesel fuel, one 18 MW jet turbine that is fueled by kerosene, and one 107 MW simple-cycle steam boiler unit burning no. 6 fuel oil, ULSD or natural gas. The station also has a small auxiliary boiler for process and building heat and an emergency back-up generator. The station's management also operates several small remote power generators including two other jet turbines identical to West Springfield 10 which are the Doreen Street unit in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and Woodland Road unit in Lee, Massachusetts as well as five run-of-river hydroelectric power stations located on the Chicopee and Deerfield Rivers.
Variable renewable energy (VRE) is a renewable energy source that is non-dispatchable due to its fluctuating nature, like wind power and solar power, as opposed to a controllable renewable energy source such as dammed hydroelectricity, or biomass, or a relatively constant source such as geothermal power.
Power plant engineering or power station engineering is a division of power engineering, and is defined as "the engineering and technology required for the production of central station electric power." The field is focused on the generation of power for industries and communities, not for household power production. The field is an interdisciplinary field, using the theoretical base of both mechanical and electrical engineering. The engineering aspect of power plant management has evolved with technology and has become progressively more complicated. The introduction of nuclear technology and the progression of other existing technologies have allowed power to be created in more ways and on a larger scale than was previously possible. The assignment of different types of engineers to the design, construction, and operation of a new power plant is dependent on the type of system being built such as whether it is a fossil fuel thermal power plant, nuclear power plant, hydroelectric plant, or solar plant.
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