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Difference between Wind Power Plant and Thermal Power Plants

written by: Haresh Khemani•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 8/30/2008

The thermal power plants require fossil fuels like coal and oil for their operation, while the wind power plants or wind farms don't need such fuels. There are many more differences between thermal power plants and wind power plants, let us see a few of them.

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    Comparison of Wind Power Plants and Thermal Power Plants

    Most of the people think that wind energy can be used for generation of small quantity of electricity compared to the conventional thermal power plants. Let me inform you that Suzlon, a wind energy company, is installing Asia’s largest wind power plant or wind park in India, producing the power of 1000MW and another wind park producing power of 500 MW.

    Let us see the various differences between the wind farm or wind power plant and thermal power plants.

    1) Type of fuel used: The thermal power plants use fossil fuels like coal, and oil as the fuel for producing the electricity. The nuclear power plants use nuclear fuels like uranium and thorium. All these fuels are very costly and they are required in huge quantities every day. The wind power plants don’t need any fuel; they use atmospheric wind which is available abundantly and freely.

    2) Method of power production: In the thermal and nuclear power plants the fuel converts water into steam in the big boilers. The steam expands in the turbines and runs the turbines to generate electricity. In the wind farms the wind turbines are installed that comprise of the fans. The blowing wind moves the fan blades which in turn rotates the shaft. The shaft transmits its momentum to the other shaft via gearbox. The output shaft from the gearbox rotates at high speed in the generator where electricity is produced. In wind power plants no expensive boiler and fuel are required. The wind energy is used directly to generate power.

    3) Wind is the renewable energy: The fresh fossil fuel is required to generate the steam continuously in thermal power plants. The used fossil fuels are converted into ash and smoke and they cannot be reused. The wind used in the wind power plants is the renewable source of energy. The wind that rotates the wind turbine fans escapes back to the atmosphere and it can be reused to generate more power.

    4) Size of the plant: Due to inherent nature of the thermal power plants, they are economically feasible only for the large sizes. The wind power plants are equally feasible for small as well as large quantities of power production. To increase the capacity of the wind farm, all you have to do is add more wind turbines. Increasing the capacity of the thermal power plants is a very costly affair. In fact the individual wind turbines can also be installed for individual homes or businesses to fulfill their power requirements. You just can’t imagine the thermal power plant being installed for the individual domestic purposes. You can have wind turbine at your home, but not thermal or nuclear power plant.

    5) Cost of the electricity produced: At present the cost of electricity produced by the wind farms is 5 to 10 cents per unit of electricity (one kilowatt hour) which is slightly more than the power supplied from the conventional power plants. But in future the cost of the wind plants are going to reduce while the costs of the fuels used in conventional power plants are bound to increase.

    6) Environmental pollution: One of major causes of the air-pollution today is the particles and smoke generated from the burning of the fossil fuels in thermal power plants. Tons of fossil fuels are burnt in thermal power plants everyday that cause large scale of air-pollution. The wind used in the wind turbines is the natural fuel that does not affects environment in anyway, thus the wind power plants are clean sources of energy.