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What Is a Thermal Power Station?

Felicia Dye
Felicia Dye

A thermal power station is an energy source where steam is used to produce electricity. Before that electrical energy can be supplied to the masses, chemical energy must be converted to thermal energy, which is then used to produce mechanical energy. This process relies on a fossil fuel, such as coal, which means that the electricity produced through this process is not clean energy.

Alternative energy is generally used to classify power production options that can be used instead of fossil fuels. Although some people may want to place thermal power stations in this category, it is important to note that these facilities may reduce the reliance on fossil fuels, but they are not alternatives. Fossil fuels are needed in the process of producing thermal power. It is actually the use of fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, that begin the process.

Steam is used to produce electricity at thermal power stations.
Steam is used to produce electricity at thermal power stations.

In a thermal power station that uses coal, the fossil fuel is burned. This is done because the coal contains chemical energy that will produce heat. The burning of the coal and the production of heat occur under a boiler, which is a container with a large amount of water. When the water is heated, stream is created, which results in thermal energy.

The thermal energy is contained so that there are high levels of pressure. When something is under pressure, it will readily escape through an opening if an opening is provided. In this case, the route of escape is through a turbine, which is basically a large fan. As the pressurized thermal energy passes through the turbine, it spins, creating mechanical energy.

There is a path that connects the turbine to a generator. The mechanical energy of the spinning turbine makes power for the generator, which is then connected to distribution framework, allowing electrical energy to be distributed from the thermal power station to the masses. The stream that passed through the turbine is routed into a condenser, where it is cooled. The cooling of the steam allows it to change forms and become water again. When this happens, the water is returned to the boiler, forming a cyclical process.

A thermal power station has advantages and disadvantages. For example, this type of facility can be operated for an extended period without shutting down for maintenance. It is often cheaper to operate than other types of power stations and requires less space than many of those facilities. A major drawback, however, is that operating thermal power stations can result in high levels of pollution.

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Discussion Comments


While for some an ideal world would see no reliance on coal industry to produce electricity, coal statistics would suggest the commodity isn't going anywhere. Coal reports show if we have to live with it, we may as well reduce the impact of coal and CCS seems to be the best solution found to date.

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    • Steam is used to produce electricity at thermal power stations.
      By: diter
      Steam is used to produce electricity at thermal power stations.