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It may surprise you to hear that 80% of all electrical energy in the world is generated by steam power. Almost all of this electrical energy is generated by steam turbines rather than the old-fashioned piston types. These were not as efficient, especially for their weight. The turbine design results in rotary motion that is ideal for producing electrical power.
The ideal for a steam turbine is that the entropy, or energy loss is zero from the beginning and end of the process. This is never achieved but is approached through increased energy of the expanding steam. As the steam is forced across the fixed nozzles to the moving buckets at high speed, the buckets are forced in the opposite direction, producing rotary motion. The loss in energy across the fixed nozzles is made up as the steam changes direction, bouncing off the turning buckets and expanding. This increases the efficiency.
Some of these largest turbines reach a power of two million horsepower. Thus, the amount of energy needed to move these turbines requires exact control of the steam temperature and pressure. Of course, safety at such pressures is also a major factor. For this reason, it is necessary to have precise steam turbine controls that can regulate the steam pressure, temperature, and direction.
We mention direction because steam is used first to heat up the system and, during this process, it bypasses the turbines. A slow rise in speed is needed so that the parts of the turbine are not damaged. Again reliable controls are needed for efficiency and safety.
Where does the turbine get the energy to produce the steam? Most of the steam generation comes from either fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, or natural gas; or nuclear power from a nuclear power plant. A small percentage of steam turbines are fueled by geothermal steam, that is, steam coming from the heat energy of the earth. Some also have been developed using solar power to make the steam.
Steam turbine engines are also used for purposes other than electrical energy. For example, some ships run on steam turbines, usually produced by fossil fuels. Locomotives also use steam turbines and are powered by diesel fuel.
It is obvious that, no matter what the use of a steam turbine system, regulators and other controls must be one hundred percent dependable. These engines are too expensive and too dangerous to leave precise control to chance or approximation.
Before investing in steam turbine controls, be sure to investigate which controls have won the confidence of the industry because of their dependability. And don’t cut costs to get something cheaper when so much is at stake.