What is a Thermal Power Plant and How Does it Work?

Power plants are industrial facilities where the electrical power is generated. Power plants generally have one or more generators or heating machine which assist in generating the electrical power. There are different forms of power plants which are radically defined based on the resources they use to convert the fuels to electrical power.

working of thermal power plant

A thermal power plant is an industrial facility where heat is converted into electrical power. Generally, the turbines at the thermal power plant are heat driven. This heat can be generated using a lot of different resources. The type of thermal power plant will differ in design based on the type of resources used. Whether fossil fuel is used or natural gas is used, or nuclear energy is used that will truly differentiate the procedure.

Different Types Of Thermal Energies

There are a lot of ways to distinguish between thermal energies. However, it would always boil down to below three types:

1. Conduction

When heat energy is generated by two objects coming in contact by way of touching, it is termed as conduction. The most basic example of this form of thermal energy would be heating of the vessel when the stove that it is kept on is turned on.

2. Convection

When heat energy is generated or transferred in a fluid, that can be termed as convection. In this form, the heat can be transferred even through the air. Hot air would rise, and cold air would sink. This is essentially the generation of thermal energy. An apt example would be your own house. The attic of the house is warmer, and the basement is relatively colder.

3. Radiation

The simplest way to explain this form of thermal energy is that the heat transfer from electromagnetic waves is termed as Radiation. When you are in the sun, you start sweating. That is an example of radiation. Similarly, heat shimmering through the window and making you hot is also an example of radiation.

Different Fuel for Thermal Power Plant

This heat energy that is used at the thermal power plant can be generated using any or many resources. These resources can be clubbed into three basic forms of their existence as below.

1. Solid Fuel

The most used solid fuel at a thermal power plant is coal. There are numerable types of coal that are used. Few of the examples are lignite coal, bituminous coal, sub-bituminous coal, semi-bituminous coal, anthracite coal, and pulverized coal.

2. Liquid Fuel

The resources in liquid form that can be used at a thermal power plant are majorly petroleum and its by-products. The by-products of petroleum involve gasoline, fuel oil or diesel. These are converted into heat energy to generate electrical power at a thermal power plant.

3. Gaseous Fuel

Gaseous fuels are the fuels available in the form of gas. This can be natural gas or manufactured gases. Some of the basic forms of manufactured cases are coal gas, coke oven gas, blast furnace gas and the likes of it. Natural gas is one of the popular resources used at a thermal power plant.

Working of a Thermal Power Plant

As the name suggests, the thermal power plant involves conversion of heat energy into electrical power. This is done through a lengthy and big process. The workings of a basic thermal power plant are quite complex. Let us take a look at what are steps involved in the working of a thermal power plant:

what is a thermal power plant

Raw Material

If the thermal power plant uses coal as it’s raw material, then the coal is brought to the thermal power plant. The coal that usually comes from mines. It is bigger than the required size. So these coal pieces are then cut into smaller pieces using crushers before they can be used in the process.


Once the coal pieces are crushed into smaller pieces, they are then fed into the boiler. The coal pieces then get burn in the boiler and generate the combustion heat. This combustion heat is then transferred to the boiler drum.


The second material used is water. Water has to be stripped of all the air and impurities. Once the clean water is ready, it needs to be added to the boiler drum where combustion heat will convert it into high pressure and temperature steam. This steam has a mix of pressure and raw kinetic energy. This steam then needs to be sent to the turbine. The pressure of the steam is too high, and hence for any abnormal exchange, an XHVAL industrial valve that puts an emergency stop to steam would be very useful.


This steam is then directed towards a turbine. A turbine is a device which works through kinetic and pressure energy of steam and puts it to generate electric power. From the boiler, the heat goes to super-heater. Super-heater then sends it to Turbine. In the turbine, this heat loses its kinetic and pressure energy and rotates the turbine blades. These blades rotate the turbine shaft that they are connected to.


A generator is placed inside the turbine. When the shaft is moved in the turbine, it, in turn, drives the generator. This generator then converts this kinetic into electric power. This electric power is then sent to the power grid which in turn provides electricity to houses, factories, shops, and other utilities.

Power plants are using resources and producing electricity to provide us with the same. The resources used are perishable resources, and they are depleting at an alarming rate. More and more industrial facilities are now being asked to switch to renewable resources. There are a lot of power plants that are generating electricity based on solar energy, wind energy or waves.


The least bit we can do is try not to waste the electricity. This electricity is being generated using resources that are ending. For our future and for the generations to come, we need to preserve these resources. I hope this article tells you the work that goes behind the scenes at the thermal power plant.

Salman Zafar

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