Old is gold goes the equally old and wise saying and this is applicable to the black diamond as well, in the perspective of thermal power plants. Well if you are confused let me tell you that I am referring to coal which is one of the oldest used fuels in the world. Though technology has gone skywards in the previous couple of centuries, yet this source continues to occupy an important position in the energy production scenario worldwide.
Coal – Use in Electricity Generation
In the earlier days coal might have been used for providing heat for making food or in the blacksmiths furnace but as technology made strides, so did the level and importance of coal in the energy production arena went upwards. Currently thermal power plants produce hundreds of megawatts of electricity from burning coal.
Despite the hue and cry of environmental concerns, which are of course true to a certain extent, various other parameters have still kept coal as one of the most important sources of power generation in thermal power plants.
The very first parameter is the ample abundance of coal in most parts of the world including the United States. Estimates suggest that the US has reserves of coal which could last more then two centuries even at the current rate of consumption. Apart from the reserves found on land there is also presence of coal layers beneath the sea although it is difficult to commercially extract it from there, but there might be a technology for this in the future.
The next factor is directly related to the above factor and is that of cost. As you know cost is closely associated with availability and more abundant any commodity is, the lesser will be its price and vice versa which is a law of economics. Hence producing electricity through the use of coal is much cheaper than other non-conventional forms of energy such as say wind, nuclear and so forth.
Disadvantages of Coal
Of course all is not green in the literal sense in the use of coal in power plants. Environment and health hazards are one of the most prominent reasons why many groups are against the use of coal for power production. Disposal of large quantities of ash could pose problems in the coming years if the heaps continue to grow.
Another major factor to be kept in mind is that despite the abundant supply of coal it is still a non renewable source of energy which was formed through a complex process lasting thousands of years and hence cannot be formulated at a short notice.
Despite the disadvantages, coal is still very popular in its use as power plant fuel and continues to provide electricity to this power hungry planet.