What Is a Power Plant?

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A power plant is a facility for the generation of bulk electric power. Power plants produce electric energy from another form of energy. The type of converted energy depends on the type of power plant. Each type of power plant poses a distinct set of advantages and drawbacks.

The energy for power plants comes from several sources. Some sources are nonrenewable, such as natural gas, oil, coal and nuclear fuels, while others are renewable, such as manure, straw and wood. The cost or efficiency of generation depends on the power rating of the source, how long it is used and the price of an electrical unit.

The most common fuels used in power plants are: fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal), nuclear fuels (uranium and to a lesser extent plutonium) and renewable biomass (straw, manure and wood).

Each fuel source has a number of disadvantages. Fossil fuels are finite and nonrenewable energy sources. They release carbon dioxide when burnt and cannot be replaced when used. Nuclear fuels are also nonrenewable energy resources and are very dangerous if handled improperly. Accidents involving nuclear fuels result in the release of radioactive materials into the environment. Although cheap, renewable biomass sources require a lot of land to produce sufficient energy.