What is a Generating Station?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A generating station is a facility where electrical power is generated. The generated energy is distributed over the grid to utility customers. Generating stations are also known as power plants, power stations, and powerhouses. These industrial facilities are capable of generating varying amounts of electricity, depending on their size, the fuel they utilize for energy generation, and how they are operated.

A hydroelectric power plant.
A hydroelectric power plant.

Generating stations can use fuels like coal and nuclear elements as a source of energy to move turbines to generate electricity. They can also use renewable sources of energy like hydropower, geothermal power, and wind power. Depending on what kind of fuel the facility is designed to work with, the layout of the facility can vary. The fuel type can also dictate where the facility is located.

Power stations generate electricity.
Power stations generate electricity.

A hydropower generating station, for example, needs to be situated on a body of water so that it will have a steady supply of water to move its turbines. Conversely, a nuclear plant doesn't need to be positioned in a specific location, although such facilities are usually located away from inhabited areas for safety reasons. When installing a generating station, a utility may also consider ease of distribution and transmission, with the goal of moving electricity as efficiently as possible.

Dynamos, as seen here, are an important part of hydroelectric stations.
Dynamos, as seen here, are an important part of hydroelectric stations.

The staff at a generating station can often be relatively small because these facilities are typically heavily automated. Staffers are needed primarily to monitor the systems used to control the facility and to check safety systems. Automated systems at an electrical generating station can mesh with other systems across the grid to balance electricity needs to keep the supply consistent and adequate.

Staff at a generating station typically includes engineers who are familiar with the systems used in the facility, as well as general staff who can perform maintenance task and monitor the plant's operations. Special training and certifications may be required to work in certain areas or at certain facilities. People who are interested in working at generating stations can usually obtain information about available jobs through their utilities.

Utilities periodically need to bring new generating stations on line to meet growing consumer need for electricity. The process of designing a new station and applying for permits can be lengthy and it can take years before a proposed plant can actually be built. When stations grow too old to be properly maintained, they must be decommissioned and dismantled; with nuclear facilities, extra care must be taken during the decommissioning process.

A source of energy for a generating station can be wind power from turbines.
A source of energy for a generating station can be wind power from turbines.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon258882

A) What does the operation of a hydroelectric generating station and a nuclear power plant have in common?

b) What is the difference between the two types of generating stations?

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