The Physics
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Power of a Commercial Power Plant

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Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Cutnell, John D. Physics, Third Edition. New York: Wiley, 1995: 742. "A generating station is producing 1.2 × 106 W of power" 1.2 MW
"Grand Coulee Dam" The 1996 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Version 8.0 CD-ROM. Grolier, 1995. "Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River in Washington State is among the most massive concrete structures in the world. Open in 1942, the 1.3-km-long (0.8 mi), 168-m-high (550 ft) gravity dam serves what was once the world's largest hydroelectric complex, recently enlarged to 9.7 million kilowatts. (Brazil ITAIPU system surpassed it in the late 1980s). The dam's reservoir, Roosevelt Lake, stretches 241 km (150 mi) toward the Canadian border." 9,700 MW
(Grand Coulee)
Hubbard, Charles. Grand Coulee Dam Columbia Basin Project. 27 January 97. "In addition to producing up to 6.5 million kilowatts of power, the dam irrigates over half a million acres of Columbia river basin farm land and provides abundant wildlife and recreation areas." 6,500 MW
(Grand Coulee)
Macfarlan, Donald. Guinness Book of Records. New York: Bantam, 1992: 275. "Currently, the most powerful installed power station as the Grand Coulee, WA, with 7.4 million kW/hr (ultimately 10,830 MW), which began operating in 1942. The $11-billion Itaipu power station on the Parana River near the Brazilian Paraguay border began generating power formally on 25 October 1984 and will attain 13,320 kW from 18 turbines. Construction began in 1975 with a work force approaching 28,000. A 20,000 MW power station project on the Tunguska River, USSR was announced in February 1982." 10,830 MW
(Grand Coulee)
13,320 MW
Hydroelectric Power. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). "The nations largest hydropower plant is the 7,600 megawatt Grand Coulee power station on the Columbia River in Washington State. The plant is being upscaled to 10,080 megawatts, which will place it second in the world behind a colossal 13,320 megawatt plant in Brazil." 10,830 MW
(Grand Coulee)
13,320 MW

Most of the United States power comes from electricity. Virtually all commercial electric energy is now produced by generators driven by steam from the burning of fossil fuels or from nuclear sources or by hydropower. A basic steam-power plant includes a furnace or reactor for raising the temperature of the water in a boiler, or steam generator, until it changes into steam, and a turbine, which drives the generator to produce electric power. The electric power produced is brought from the generating plant to the user through a network of wires called transmission and distribution lines.

With the improvements in technology, power plants can now produce as high as 1,300,000 kW of power compared to the few kilowatts of power that was produced from the early steam engine. Hydroelectric, or water power, generators have grown from the 12 kW machines of 1882 to the 600,000 kW units at the Grand Coulee station in Washington State. The Grand Coulee power station is the nations largest hydropower plant. It is ranked second in the world behind a 13,320 megawatt plant in Brazil called Itaipu.

The future for power plants is trying to find new ways to produce electric power that will reduce cost and be less harmful to the environment. The power produced by power plants is bound to go as has already been seen through the history of power plants.

Hans Orejuela -- 2000