How does a coal-fired power plant work?

A coal-fired power plant works by burning coal to produce steam, which then drives a turbine to generate electricity. Coal-fired power plants have several key parts and functions that work together to produce electricity. Here are the main parts and their functions:

  1. Coal storage and handling: Coal is stored in a yard near the power plant, and is transported to the plant by conveyor belts or trucks. Once inside the plant, the coal is pulverized into a fine powder to increase its surface area and make it easier to burn.

  2. Boiler: The boiler is the main component of a coal-fired power plant. It contains water-filled tubes that are heated by burning coal. The heat from the burning coal converts the water into steam.

  3. Turbine: The steam from the boiler is directed into a turbine, which is connected to a generator. As the steam flows through the turbine blades, it causes the turbine to rotate.

  4. Generator: The generator is connected to the turbine and converts the mechanical energy of the rotating turbine into electrical energy.

  5. Cooling system: After passing through the turbine, the steam is condensed back into water and returned to the boiler to be heated again. A cooling system is used to cool the steam and convert it back into water.

  6. Control system: The control system manages the operation of the power plant, including regulating the flow of coal and air into the boiler, monitoring the temperature and pressure of the steam and water, and managing the operation of the turbine and generator.

  7. Pollution control system: A pollution control system is used to reduce the emissions of pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, from the power plant. This system may include scrubbers, which remove pollutants from the exhaust gases, and electrostatic precipitation, which remove particulate matter.



    The efficiency of a coal power plant depends on a number of factors, such as the quality of the coal being burned, the type of boiler being used, and the age and condition of the plant. Generally, modern coal power plants have an efficiency of around 33%, meaning that they convert about one-third of the energy in the coal into electrical power. However, some of the newest and most efficient coal power plants can achieve efficiencies of up to 45%.


    1. Reliability: Coal is a reliable source of energy that can be stored and transported easily, making it a dependable source of electricity.

    2. Affordability: Coal is relatively inexpensive and widely available, making it an attractive option for countries with limited resources or high energy demand.

    3. Availability: Many countries have large reserves of coal, making it a domestically sourced and secure energy supply.

    4. Base-load power: Coal power plants can generate electricity on a continuous basis, providing a stable source of power that can meet the demands of a modern electricity grid.


    1. Environmental impact: Coal power plants produce air pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, as well as greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. These emissions can have negative impacts on human health and the environment.

    2. Non-renewable: Coal is a finite resource that is non-renewable, meaning that it will eventually run out.

    3. Mining impacts: Coal mining can have significant impacts on local ecosystems and communities, including deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution.

    4. Transportation and storage: Transporting and storing coal can be costly and can have negative environmental impacts.

    In summary, while coal power plants have certain advantages, such as their reliability and affordability, they also have significant environmental impacts and are a finite resource. As countries seek to transition to cleaner and more sustainable forms of energy, the use of coal for electricity generation is becoming less common.

Prasun Barua

Prasun Barua is an Engineer (Electrical & Electronic) and Member of the European Energy Centre (EEC). His first published book Green Planet is all about green technologies and science. His other published books are Solar PV System Design and Technology, Electricity from Renewable Energy, Tech Know Solar PV System, C Coding Practice, AI and Robotics Overview, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, Know How Solar PV System, Know The Product, Solar PV Technology Overview, Home Appliances Overview, Tech Know Solar PV System, C Programming Practice, etc. These books are available at Google Books, Google Play, Amazon and other platforms.


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