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Hydroelectric power station at Gabčíkovo Dam, Slovakia
Hydroelectric power station at Glen Canyon Dam, Page, Arizona

A power station, also referred to as a power plant and sometimes generating station or generating plant, is an industrial facility for the generation of electric power. Power stations are generally connected to an electrical grid.

Many power stations contain one or more generators, a rotating machine that converts mechanical power into three-phase electric power. The relative motion between a magnetic field and a conductor creates an electric current.

The energy source harnessed to turn the generator varies widely. Most power stations in the world burn fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas to generate electricity. Clean energy sources include nuclear power, and an increasing use of renewables such as solar, wind, wave, geothermal, and hydroelectric.

History

In early 1871 Belgian inventor Zénobe Gramme invented a generator powerful enough to produce power on a commercial scale for industry.[1]

In 1878, a hydroelectric power station was designed and built by William, Lord Armstrong at Cragside, England. It used water from lakes on his estate to power Siemens dynamos. The electricity supplied power to lights, heating, produced hot water, ran an elevator as well as labor-saving devices and farm buildings.[2]

In the autumn of 1881, a central station providing public power was built in Godalming, England. It was proposed after the town failed to reach an agreement on the rate charged by the gas company, so the town council decided to use electricity. It used hydroelectric power for street lighting and household lighting. The system was not a commercial success and the town reverted to gas.[3]

In 1882 the world's first coal-fired public power station, the Edison Electric Light Station, was built in London, a project of Thomas Edison organized by Edward Johnson. A Babcock & Wilcox boiler powered a 93 kW (125 horsepower) steam engine that drove a 27 tonnes (27 long tons) generator. This supplied electricity to premises in the area that could be reached through the culverts of the viaduct without digging up the road, which was the monopoly of the gas companies. The customers included the City Temple and the Old Bailey. Another important customer was the Telegraph Office of the General Post Office, but this could not be reached through the culverts. Johnson arranged for the supply cable to be run overhead, via Holborn Tavern and Newgate.[4]

In September 1882 in New York, the Pearl Street Station was established by Edison to provide electric lighting in the lower Manhattan Island area. The station ran until destroyed by fire in 1890. The station used reciprocating steam engines to turn direct-current generators. Because of the DC distribution, the service area was small, limited by voltage drop in the feeders. In 1886 George Westinghouse began building an alternating current system that used a transformer to step up voltage for long-distance transmission and then stepped it back down for indoor lighting, a more efficient and less expensive system which is similar to modern systems. The war of the currents eventually resolved in favor of AC distribution and utilization, although some DC systems persisted to the end of the 20th century. DC systems with a service radius of a mile (kilometer) or so were necessarily smaller, less efficient of fuel consumption, and more labor-intensive to operate than much larger central AC generating stations.

generation of electric power. Power stations are generally connected to an electrical grid.

Many power stations contain one or more generators, a rotating machine that converts mechanical power into three-phase electric power. The relative motion between a magnetic field and a conductor creates an electric current.

The energy source harnessed to turn the generator varies widely. Most power stations in the world burn fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas to generate electricity. Clean energy sources include nuclear power, and an increasing use of renewables such as solar, wind, wave, geothermal, and hydroelectric.