Train loads of coal
Coal energy is used to generate half of all our electricity. Coal is an old and dirty fuel. It was used as fuel to power the industrial Revolution. It was also used for transportation to the west from the 1800’s until the 1950’s.
Coal energy has a long history. Some historians believe that coal energy was first used in China to smelt copper for weapons and coins. 1748 The first US commercial coal production began near Richmond Virginia.
1769 James Watt patented the modern day steam engine. Coal energy was used to make steam for early steams engines. By the1800’s Coal energy was the primary fuel used by steam powered trains.
1882 the first practical coal energy fired electric generation plant went online and was supplying electricity to New York for its house hold lights. By the 1950’s most industry used coal energy and most homes were heated by it.
Coal is a sedimentary organic rock that contains 40 – 90 % carbon by weight. It is formed by ancient plants and animals accumulating in moist peat bogs. As plants die off in a wet area, they pile up in to pea moss. It takes about 4,000 years to 10, 000 for 3 feet ( 1 meter) of peat moss to accumulate. This process works best in a river delta or coastal plains.
Over time these peat moss is compressed by further deposits and the carbon content of the coal is concentrated. The older the coal gets the harder and blacker it is. Coal is mined to get it out of the ground. Then it is burnt to produce electricity. In the most common type of coal plants, pulverized coal is blown into a furnace, where it burns while it is airborne.
Water flows thru pipes in the furnace. The water is heated to boiling and creates steam under pressure. Then this pressurized steam flows over a turbine connected to a generator to produce electricity. After the steam passed thru the turbine it is cooled down into water to pass thru the furnace again.
The advantages of coal energy are this. We have about 300 years of it left, but only 100 years if we used it to replace oil and gas. Coal energy is plentiful and cheap. It provides a warmer heat than electricity. The biggest advantage is that it is more abundant than oil or gas. The US has 27% of the world supply. Russia has 17%, China 12% and India 10%.
However the disadvantages of coal energy are these. Most coal fired electric plants are only 35% efficient. Coal is very dirty to burn. It is the leading cause of green house gases. Acid rain is also caused from sulfur emissions which are produced when burning it. Plus Coal energy is not a renewable source eventually we will run out.
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