Electric power plant

By
Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The term electric power plant tends to evoke images of fossil fuel-fired generation facilities with soaring smoke stacks and hulking cooling towers.

These types of plants, along with nuclear, have long formed the energy backbone of many major economies such as the US and China – and still do.

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Advantages of these types of large-scale electric power plants are that they provide a steady output and can be built near load centers, among others.

Fossil fuel-fired (coal, oil or gas) and nuclear plants operate by heating water to create steam which then spins a turbine which spins a generator. The chemical energy of coal, for example, is converted into thermal energy (steam) and then mechanical energy (movement of turbine) and, finally, electrical energy.

In Latin America, conventional thermal plants still form the backbone, along with hydropower plants, but wind, geothermal, biomass and solar electric power plants are gaining ground.

Some governments, particularly in countries with limited fossil fuel resources, are developing policies to promote renewables in a bid to increase energy security and diversify their energy mixes. These types of plants tend to generate less opposition from citizens, also.

And while large, utility-scale projects tend to make headlines, mini-hydro power plants are also being developed along with small self-supply solar projects.

For many years to come we may still associate the term power plant with coal-fired or nuclear electric power plants, but we will likely reach a point where electric power plant brings to mind images of sprawling solar PV parks or a hillside bristling with wind turbines.

*Other stories, analysis, projects and companies related to electric power plants:

Why Chile's 70% renewable goal is attainable

Mexico awards US$347mn co-gen project

Mexico to build solar energy research center

Iberdrola

Argentina thermal plant set to open

Chalupas geothermal project

Angra 3 nuclear power plant

Brazil shelves plans to open up nuclear sector