Coal-Fired Power Plant
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Coal-fired units produce electricity by burning coal in a boiler to heat water to produce steam. The steam, at tremendous pressure, flows into a turbine, which spins a generator to produce electricity. The steam is cooled, condensed back into water, and returned to the boiler to start the process over.
For example, the coal-fired boilers at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant near Knoxville, Tennessee, heat water to about 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (540 degrees Celsius) to create steam. The steam is piped to the turbines at pressures of more than 1,800 pounds per square inch (130 kilograms per square centimeter). The turbines are connected to the generators and spin them at 3600 revolutions per minute to make alternating current electricity at 20,000 volts. River water is pumped through tubes in a condenser to cool and condense the steam coming out of the turbines.
The Kingston plant generates about 10 billion kilowatt-hours a year, or enough electricity to supply 700,000 homes. To meet this demand, Kingston burns about 14,000 tons of coal a day, an amount that would fill 140 railroad cars.