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Fossil Power

photo of cumberland fossil plant

TVA’s Cumberland Fossil Plant

Most of the electricity that TVA makes is generated at the 11 coal-fired power plants that TVA runs across the Tennessee Valley. These plants burn coal to make electricity. They are also called "fossil" plants because the coal they burn was formed from the remains of prehistoric plants.

TVA built the first of its 11 large fossil plants in the 1940s. In 2011, these plants produced more than 74 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity—52 percent of the electricity TVA made that year.

How does a fossil plant work?

Electricity is made at a fossil plant by burning coal, which heats water in a boiler to produce steam. The steam, under a lot of pressure, flows into a turbine, and the turbine spins a generator to make electricity. (See a diagram of a coal-fired power plant.)

TVA's Kingston Plant near Knoxville, Tennessee, is a good example of a fossil plant. It generates about 10 billion kilowatt-hours a year, or enough electricity to supply 700,000 homes. To meet this demand, Kingston burns about 14,000 tons of coal a day, an amount that would fill 140 railroad cars.

Coal use and the environment

The burning of coal to produce power can help cause air pollution. Scientists have also linked fossil plants to climate change, the gradual, possibly harmful, warming of the world's climate. The Tennessee Valley Authority is among the world leaders in finding ways to help control environmental damage from fossil plants.

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