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Created and Presented by
Doren Nedrick

Power Generation

power plants consist of four

main kinds:
(1) fossil fuel plants,
(2) oil,
(3) gas and
(4) hydroelectric plants.

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power plants use large alternatingcurrent generators, or alternators, to

produce electric energy.
This energy is delivered to users by
transmission networks, or grids.
The generators are usually driven by
turbines, often called prime movers.
These turbines are turned by the energy of
steam pressure (in the case of fossil fuel and
nuclear plants) or by moving water (in the
case of hydroelectric plants).
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basic principle of a simple turbine

is shown in Fig. 16-1. Smaller
generators are usually driven by
gasoline or diesel fuel engines.

D. Nedrick 2010

Fossil fuel plants


fuel plants were the earliest type

of power plant and are still most
common. In these plants, water is
heated in a boiler to create steam (Fig.

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fuel used to heat the water can be

either coal, oil, or natural gas (called
fossil fuels). In some electric plants,
the steam is heated to 1000 F (538
C) and is under a pressure of 3600
pounds per square inch (24,800
kilopascals (kPa). This steam is
directed at the turbine rotor (Fig. 16-3).
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D. Nedrick 2010

series of blades or buckets on the

turbine rotor converts the steam jet force
into rotary motion.
After the energy of the steam is used in
the turbine, the steam is condensed into
water and continually recycled to the
The generator turns at a constant speed
even though the load requirements on
the generator change.
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Hydroelectric Power

a hydroelectric power plant, water

from a river, lake, or reservoir is
directed against the blades of a
turbine by gravity. The water pressure
causes the shaft of the turbine to
rotate. Then this shaft turns the rotor
of a generator (Fig. 16-4).

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carry electric energy from power

plants to the places where it will be
used takes large transmission and
distribution systems (Fig. 16-7).

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D. Nedrick 2010


Transmission Lines

lines, overhead wires

supported by high towers, transmit
electric energy from power plants.
The center strands of transmission lines
are made of steel to give them strength.
The outer strands are made of
aluminum because of its lightness and
ability to carry current.
The wires are insulated from the towers
by porcelain insulators to prevent the
loss of electric energy.
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is preferred to DC because it can be

easily stepped up and down by a
In an alternating-current system, energy
loss across transmission lines is reduced
because transformers make it possible
to raise the ac voltage to very high
values. Some transmission systems use
750,000 V. These higher voltages allow
the same level of electric power made
available at a lower current.
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D. Nedrick 2010



results in less energy loss, smaller

transmission cables, and higher efficiency.
Transformers make it possible to transmit
electricity economically over distances of
200 to 300 miles (322 to 483 km). In
addition to stepping up, or raising, the
voltage for long-distance transmission,
transformers step down, or lower, the
voltage to the requirements of the load.
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Substation and Distribution


16-11 shows a substation, or

distribution center. Substations step
down the voltage for industrial and
home uses. They distribute electric
energy conveniently to various loads
and make it easy to isolate system

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D. Nedrick 2010




sources are an important part of

technology. Technology involves using
scientific ideas to make machines that can
do work and safer.
This use of energy, however, creates several
problems. These include:
(1) depleting (using up) fuel supplies,
(2) polluting our environment,
(3) depending on external sources for fuel
supplies, and
(4) spending large amounts of money on
imported fuels.
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energy is one of the cleanest

forms of energy. It is easy to transport.
It can be produced in large quantities
at a reasonable cost. But producing
electricity is damaging to our
environment and ways to produce
electricity in an environmentally
"friendly" manner are being sought.
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the production of most electric

energy begins with heat energy. As
mentioned earlier in this chapter, fossil
fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas
are burned to produce heat.
The water is then heated and changed
to steam. The steam is then used to
power turbines that drive large
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the world's supplies of coal, oil,

natural gas, and fissionable materials are
limited. Thus, other sources of energy must
be used. Some of these are:
ocean heat,
wave motion, and
organic (animal or plant) materials.
These sources are particularly useful for
producing electricity.
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use of sunlight as a source of energy to

generate electric power has many advantages.
Sunlight is inexhaustible (cannot be used up)
and is available everywhere.
Using sunlight does little damage to the
environment and produces few wastes.
Solar, or photovoltaic cells, generate electricity
directly from sunlight and use no fuel.
Changing sunlight into electricity may help
solve the long-term energy problems of the
United States.
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amount of voltage produced by a

single solar cell is quite small. For this
reason, many solar cells are often
connected to form a solar panel. One
very important use of solar panels is to
provide energy for charging batteries
and operating circuits in space
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windmill, for example, is a

machine that converts wind energy
into useful work. Only recently have
windmills been seriously considered as
another means of generating

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D. Nedrick 2010


wind farm uses many wind

generators in areas where there are
strong and persistent winds. The wind
farm industry is new but, is growing in
importance because wind energy is
abundant and environmentally sound.
Single wind-driven generators,
however, may be installed for
residential or business use.
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Ocean Heat

possible way to generate

electricity is to use thermal (heat)
energy from the ocean. This involves
using ocean water to collect and store
energy from the sun. A system for
doing this might take the form of a
large floating structure anchored to
the ocean floor (Fig. 16-18).
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system uses the temperature differ

ence between the heated upper layers of
water and the colder layers below. The
warmer water can change a liquid such as
ammonia into a gas. That gas pressure
can then be used to drive a turbine. An
electric generator can be connected to the
turbine and the gas. After passing through
the turbine, it can be changed back into a
liquid by the colder water.
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an ocean thermal energy conver

sion system would operate at low
temperatures and pressures. Very large
amounts of ocean water would be needed
and power would need to be transmitted to
land by underwater cables where they would
connect with regular power lines. Large
numbers of such systems would need to be
built, and would probably be located close to
major population areas along coastlines.
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Geothermal Energy

areas of the world where geologic activi

ties, such as magma chambers contained
within volcanic features are close to the
surface of the earth, the heat produced can
be used to generate electricity.
Typically, in this process, water is passed
through pipes that have been placed close to
the hot geologic activity. This water is turned
to steam which then turns the turbines. This
provides power to operate generators.
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Wave Motion

source of energy being considered is

the motion of ocean waves. One way of doing
this uses an anchored buoy (float). A buoy for
using wave motion to produce electricity has
two parts.
The lower section is the part that floats.
The upper part is shaped like a ball with its
bottom open. Waves cause water to move up
and down in this upper part. This forces air in
and out through a tube containing a rotor with
windmill-like blades.
The air moves the blades of the rotor, which
are designed to always turn in the same
direction. Connected to the shaft of the rotor is
an electric generator (Fig. 16-18).
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material that can be changed

into usable fuel is another possible
source of energy. Such materials
include agricultural wastes from crops,
animals, and sewage. These can be
changed into methane gas, alcohol,
and oil.

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