Saturday, March 23, 2013
Today, we took a tour of a coal-fired power plant in Cheswick, about 30 minutes from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
Our guide, Kevin, a nuclear engineer who had studied while in the Navy, led us through the process of the generation of electricity, from coal to the outlet. He started by explaining the geologic history of Pennsylvania and the process by which coal forms, as well as why it's so efficient to use as a fuel compared to wood, even though it's comprised of much of the same material. After spending a while in the project planning room/classroom, it was time to begin our tour.
But remember, safety first!
The day we visited, the power plant was not operating after censors detected a possible safety hazard in one of the machines. The power plant was completely shut down and the maintenance crew was busy taking care of the problem when we arrived. Kevin showed us how coal is crushed into a fine powder in order to increase surface area and efficiency, then how it is used as a fuel to create steam in order to spin a generator. The generator consists of a tube covered in wire, with a strong magnet. When in motion, it creates a flow of electrons, which can then be sent through the power grid as electricity.
Our tour ended on the roof of the cooling stack building.
The entire album of photos can be viewed here