Energy comes in various forms but electrical energy is
the most convenient form of energy since it can be transported with ease,
generated in a number of different ways, and can be converted into mechanical
work or heat energy as and when required. In this article we will learn about a
few of the most commonly used methods of generating electrical energy.
The Power Plant
Power or energy (let me remind you at this juncture that
though the words are used in the synonymous sense here, technically they have
somewhat differently meanings) is generated in a power plant which is the place where
power is generated from a given source. Actually the term “generated” in the
previous sentence is a misnomer since energy cannot be created or destroyed but
merely changed from one form to the other. More correctly, a power plant can be
said to be a place where electrical energy is obtained by converting some other
form of energy. The type of energy converted depends on what type of power plant is being considered.
In the industrial use of the word, the term power plant
also refers to any arrangement where power is generated. For example the
main engine of a ship or an aeroplane for that matter. But in the context of
this articles (and other articles on this topic), just remember that power
plant basically refers to electrical energy generation facility. This leads us
to the next question that how many types of power plants are used commonly for
electrical energy generation?
Types of Power Plants
There are several different types of power plants used
across the world today. Two will be discussed here very briefly since it is
not possible to elaborate on different types of power plants in one article,
but they shall be taken one by one, in the series. Each of these plants has
their own set of advantages and drawbacks from various perspectives and various
factors govern which type of power plant is best suited for a particular region
- Thermal Power Plants – as the name suggests, these
power plants convert heat energy into electrical energy. The working fluid
of these plants is mostly steam and they work on the Rankine cycle. A
steam power plant consists of a boiler which is used to generate the steam
from water, a prime mover like a steam turbine to convert the enthalpy of
the steam into rotary motion of the turbine which is linked to the
alternator to produce electricity. The steam is again condensed in the
condenser and fed to the boiler again.
- Hydro Power Plants – these plants use the kinetic
energy of flowing water to rotate the turbine blades, hence converting
kinetic energy into electrical energy. These types of power plants are
very good for peak loads. Their main disadvantage lies in the fact that
their location depends on a number of factors which are beyond the control
of human beings such as the hydrological cycle of the region and so forth.
If there is shortage of water it could lead to shut down of these plants.
For this reason alternative arrangements such as thermal power plants need to be
made to ensure uninterrupted generation of power.
Apart from these main two types there are plants which use
nuclear energy, solar energy and even wind energy to generate power. We will
discuss more about these in later articles.