Everything You Need to Know About a Power Plant

A power plant is typically an industrial facility that uses one or more generators to convert mechanical energy to electrical energy. The primary energy for different power plants varies, with the most common fuels being: natural gas, coal, and nuclear power (uranium).

Primary energy flows for generating electricity include hydroelectricity, wind, geothermal, solar, and tidal. The types of power plants used to generate electricity in different countries vary. For instance, hydroelectric power plants generate 60% of electricity in Canada.

Types of Power Plants

In general, there are two categories of power plants; thermal power plants and renewable power plants.

Thermal Power Plants

Thermal power plants utilize fuel to heat water to generate highly pressurized steam. The steam is passed through pipes and used to rotate the blades of a turbine, causing it to spin. This rotates wire coils in the generator and pushes electrons to generate electricity.

  • Nuclear – These power plants utilize fission processes to produce electricity. The fission processes use nuclear reactors like pressurized water reactors, boiling water reactors, CANDU reactors, and RBMK reactors.
  • Fossil Fuel-Fossil – These power plants burn fuel to form thermal energy to operate their external heat engines. Examples of fossil fuel power plants include natural gas power plants and coal-fired power plants.
  • Solar Thermal Power Plants – These power plants utilize heat from the sun’s rays to generate steam to rotate the turbine.

Renewables Energy Power Plants

These power plants use their energy to produce electricity. Some examples include:

  • Wind Turbines – As the name suggests, these power plants get their energy from wind. The wind transfers kinetic energy to the turbine and causes it to spin.
  • Hydroelectric Facilities – These use water from reservoirs and rivers to spin the generator and generate electricity. Hydroelectric facilities are the most reliable or dispatchable renewable power plants.
  • Solar Panels – These renewable power plants utilize photovoltaic solar cells to generate electricity. When the sun’s photons hit the panel’s atoms, electrons flow to create electricity.