How Power is Generated from a Plant: An Expert's Guide

Generating power from a plant is a complex process that involves converting heat into electricity. Most thermal power plants use fuel to heat the water in a tank, which generates steam (usually at high pressure). This steam then travels through pipes to rotate the fan-shaped blades of a turbine, which is part of the Rankine cycle. The fuel used can be crude oil, gasoline, heating fuel, diesel, propane, biofuels, natural gas liquids and more.

The electricity generated is then transmitted in the form of moving electrons through cables to homes and businesses. To understand how this works, it's important to know about the different types of electricity generators. The most common type is an electromagnetic generator, which uses an electromagnet and a series of insulated wire coils to form a stationary cylinder called a stator. As the rotor rotates, an electrical current flows in each section of the wire coil, combining to form a large current.

Other types of electricity generators include fuel cells, Stirling engines (used in solar thermal generators with parabolic plates) and thermoelectric generators. Energy storage systems for electricity generation include hydropumped storage, compressed air storage, electrochemical batteries and flywheels. These energy storage systems use electricity to charge a storage facility or device, and the amount of electricity they can supply is less than the amount they use to charge. Thermal power plants generate electricity by converting heat to electricity, essentially burning fuel.

In both hydroelectric and coal-fired power plants, an energy source is used to rotate a propeller-like part called a turbine, which then rotates a metal shaft in an electric generator. The U. S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) provides data on energy use in homes, commercial buildings, manufacturing and transportation; reserves, production, prices, employment and productivity; distribution; stocks; imports and exports; greenhouse gas data; voluntary reports; power plant emissions; maps; tools; resources related to energy disruptions and infrastructure; state energy information; international energy information; regional energy information; tools for customizing searches; viewing specific data sets; studying detailed documentation; accessing time series data; free and open EIA data as APIs, Excel add-ins, bulk files and widgets; forms used to collect energy data; monthly and annual energy forecasts; analysis of energy issues; financial analysis; congressional reports; financial market analysis and financial data from major energy companies. The EIA also offers short and timely articles with graphics about energy facts, problems and trends; lesson plans; science fair experiments; field trips; teacher guide and career corner; reports requested by Congress or considered important.