OWOE - Electrical Power Generation - How do electrical power plants work?
How do electrical power plants work?
Topic updated: 2015-09-01
The majority of electrical generating plants work in the same general fashion. Heat from burning fossil fuel, focused solar energy, nuclear radiation, or other sources is used to boil water.
In fossil fuel plants plants very large boilers, typically many stories tall, are used. The boiler is essentially a furnace that contains miles of small pipes filled with water. The heated air from combustion of the fuel boils the water in the pipes, creating steam. The air is always kept separate from the water so that no pollutants enter the water.
After the power plant's boiler turns water into steam, the steam is piped through a large generator. The steam turns a series of fins which spins the shaft of the generator. The shaft rotates a large magnet inside another piece of equipment called a stator which is a large electromagnet. The rotating magnetic field creates an electrical current in the copper wiring of the stator.
In addition to generating electricity, power plants must also dispose of byproducts such as waste heat, exhaust gases and particulates, and solid waste.