Thermal power and hydro-electric power: Importance and associated issues

The energy needs of the present world are mainly met by thermal power stations and hyro-electric power projects. This article discusses how the thermal power-plants and the hydro-electric power plants function. It also discusses the problems associated with these two types of power plants.

With the progress of civilization, the energy requirement has been increasing by leaps and bounds all over the world. The total energy requirement of the world is mainly met by thermal power and hydro-electric power. So, it is imperative for us to understand how a thermal power station and a hydro-electric power project function. We must have to understand the problems associated with these two types of power plant.

Why thermal power stations are so common?

A thermal power station is a place where heat energy is used to generate electricity. It is the most conventional and common source of electricity. Let us analyse how a thermal power station functions. A thermal power plant burns fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas to produce steam. The steam thus formed, creates a pressure which spins the turbine inside the plant. Electric power is generated by the spinning turbines.

The advantages of a thermal power plant are as follows: A thermal power plant requires less initial cost, and less land compared to other power stations. The fuel used (i.e., fossil fuel) is also cheap. Many countries depend mainly on thermal power for electricity. It is estimated that around 40 percent of the world's power is made out of fossil fuels.

However, thermal power plants have been criticized for the pollution caused by these plants due to the emission of large amount of smoke and carbon-di-oxide. This is a major cause of global warming. Besides, the overall efficiency of a thermal power station is low (below 40 percent). The fossil fuel stock is also fast depleting. So, the experts are advising strongly against the thermal power plants.

Why is hydro-electricity more acceptable than the electricity produced by thermal power plants?

Hydro-electric power plants use the force of flowing water to generate electricity. There are many reasons why experts suggest that hydro-electricity is more acceptable than the other. One of the most significant advantages is that hydro-electric power plants do not require any fossil fuel (which is a deleting resource) for power production. These plants only need water, a renewable source of energy. On the other hand, thermal power plants need fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, petroleum oil, etc. to function.

Since no fuel is required, the cost of electricity produced by hydro-electric plants is also more or less constant. Another important factor is pollution. Hydro-electric power plants do not burn fuel; so these plants do not cause pollution. But the heated water which comes out of such plants threatens aquatic lives. Moreover, these plants take more space than the thermal power plants. Nowadays experts opine that hydro-electric power plants may be the cause of earthquakes in the hill terrains.

Hydro-electric plants also have longer lives compared to thermal plants. Besides these, hydroelectric plants are known to facilitate irrigation in agricultural farms and preventing flood. So, more or less 150 countries around the world use this technology for power generation.

Final words

As already stated, even today, the maximum energy requirement of the world is being meted by these two types of power plants. But because of the associated problems as discussed above and considering fast increasing energy requirement, time has come to shift to nuclear power and solar power immediately.

Article by Partha K.
“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.” - George Gordon Byron

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