Coal Power: What is it and Its impact on the Environment

Climate and environment blog

Coal power

Coal is the world’s largest energy source and has a huge impact on electricity generation in major countries such as China and Germany. Coal accounts for over a third of the electricity produced in the world.

What is coal?

Over the millions of years, vegetation in flood-affected areas has been incompletely decomposed and become part of the bedrock. The oldest layers are called coal and younger coal deposits.

The lignite is often mined in large open-pit mines that cause large wounds in the landscape and force people to move. It has a high water content and does not give as much effect as combustion with coal.

Brown coal that burns gives off a foul odor and the smoke is noticeable. Many people in, for example, China have fallen ill and died due to emissions from coal-fired power plants that are fired with lignite.

The coal is older and is classified as a rock. It is cleaner and does not cause as much emissions of hazardous substances. Both lignite and coal can be used as fuel to boil water whose steam drives a generator and produces electricity. It is a relatively simple and inexpensive technology and coal is a reliable source of power because power plants can be easily regulated based on power requirements. Coal power is used mainly in countries where there are large deposits. China burns more coal than the rest of the world together.

The environmental aspect and the economy

Coal power can be seen as an environmental boast in two different ways. The smoke emitted can be contaminated with dangerous substances, not least sulfur dioxide, but the cleaner the carbon, the smaller the emissions. However, no matter how pure the carbon is, combustion contributes to the greenhouse effect as large amounts of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere.
Despite the risks, nothing indicates that we are close to stop using energy.

Mainly because growing economies in Asia and Africa need electricity and coal is a proven and relatively simple solution that provides jobs and conditions for prosperity.

In many established economies, attempts are made to get rid of coal dependency and replace it with renewable energy sources or nuclear power.

China is also investing heavily in renewable energy sources, but coal will be present for a long time.
One way to counteract the harmful effects of carbon is methods for carbon capture and storage, CSS. The carbon dioxide is collected directly at the power plant’s chimney orifice and pumped down underground. The technology exists and is used, but still on a very small scale.

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