How do power plants actually make power and distribute it?

75 views
0

How do power plants actually make power and distribute it?

In: 2

Usually they burn something and boil water to create steam that spins a turbine for charging giant batteries connected to a massive grid (power lines and whatnot) —-Nuclear plants are the same premise but they don’t burn anything unless something goes horribly wrong. —- If they can connect to a wind turbine or a dam then no burning is ever needed, just batteries for storage connected to the grid mentioned before.

Making power is (compared to distributing it) pretty straightforward. Essentially, if you rotate a magnet around a wire, you can induce a current (i.e., electricity) in that wire. So all we need to do is find some energy to rotate a magnet. This comes from all sorts of places. Wind turbines use wind to do it. Fossil fuel based plants burn their fuel to heat water into steam which spins turbines. Hydroelectric dams use falling water to spin turbines. Nuclear power uses the heat of nuclear reactions to boil water to spin turbines. Solar is just about the only source of power we use that doesn’t use this trick. Solar, instead, converts the energy from sunlight directly into electric power using, basically, fancy chemistry involving silicon.

So ok, now you’ve got current flowing through wires. What you need next is a giant, interconnected network of wires linking a bunch of different power generation and consumption sites together. This network, which we call the power grid, is what distributes power. Since there is negligible capability to store power in the grid, basically all the electricity used has to be generated on the spot. This means that, every second of every day, power plant operators are coordinating forecasts of energy demand and managing how much power they generate to match it. Power sometimes needs be rerouted on the spot due to downed lines, etc. It’s a big, complicated balancing act that it’s kind of amazing we get right most of the time.

The specifics of how a power plant makes electricity varies depending on the type of plant but it is mostly by spinning a rod in a magnetic coil using some form of kinetic energy. The coil and rod (a turbine) essentially convert the kinetic energy to electric energy.

Depends on the plant. But all will use turbines and magnets, transforming some kind of kinetic energy into electrical energy by rotating a magnet alongside a coil. How you get that kinetic energy, however, varies.

Hydroelectric plants will use the energy from water flowing out of the dam (potential energy).

Wind farms do the same with wind turbines that are spun when masses of air move through them.

Nuclear plants use nuclear fission to heat up water, turning into steam and passing through a turbine at a high pressure.

Coal plants burn coal and use it to boil water in the same fashion, pretty simple.

But in essence, it’s all about spinning magnets to generate an electric force alongside a wire.