Thermal power plants typically burn fossil fuels -- coal, oil or natural gas -- or wood to produce heat energy. The heat energy is used to boil water into steam, at 104 degrees Celsius, and the steam is used to drive a turbine and a generator.
Turning the Generator
Water is boiled in a boiler -- typically a firebox with thermally conductive, metal pipes running through it -- and the steam is fed, at high pressure, to the turbine. A turbine effectively acts like a fan in reverse; it takes the movement of steam and converts it to the rotation of a shaft.
A shaft connects the turbine to a generator. The shaft has wire coiled around it and is surrounded by an electromagnet. When the turbine turns, the wire coil is rotated in the magnetic field, creating an electric current in the wire by a phenomenon known as electromagnetic induction. Thus, mechanical energy is converted into electrical energy.
The part of a generator that moves is known as the rotor and the stationary part is known as the stator. The rotor spins 3,000 times per minute.
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