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Types of Power Plants - Generation of Electrical Energy

written by: Ricky • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 9/10/2008

Energy is required for everything that we do, and it is the next important thing apart from the food upon which the lives of nations depend. Lack of power could cause economies to cripple. The flourishing power generation industry is considered to be a sign of prosperity for any nation. Learn more about the types of power plants used to generate this energy.

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    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.

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    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?

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    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 or situation.

    • 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.


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    Types of Nuclear Power Plants

    Pressurized Water Reactors

    Boiling Water Reactors