There are many residential, commercial, and industrial customers of electrical power systems in the United States today. To meet this vast demand for electrical power, power companies work in combination to produce tremendous quantities of electrical power. This vast quantity of electrical power is supplied by power generating plants. Individual generating units that supply over 1000 megawatts of electrical power are now in operation at some power plants.
The types of power systems
Electrical power can be produced in many ways, such as from chemical reactions, heat, light, or mechanical energy. The great majority of our electrical power is produced by power plants located throughout our country, which convert the energy produced by burning coal, oil, or natural gas, by falling water, or by nuclear reactions into electrical energy. Electrical generators at these power plants are driven by steam or gas turbines, or by hydraulic turbines in the case of hydroelectrically plants. This chapter will investigate the types of power systems that produce the great majority of the electrical power used today.
Various other methods, some of which are in the experimental stages, may become future power production methods. These include solar cells, geothermal systems, wind-powered systems, magneto hydrodynamic (MHD) systems, nuclear fusion systems, and fuel cells. Most electrical power in the United States is produced at power plants that are either fossil fuel steam plants, nuclear fission steam plants, or hydroelectric plants. Fossil fuel and nuclear fission plants utilize steam turbines to deliver the mechanical energy needed to rotate the large threephase alternators that produce massive quantities of electrical power.