How Do We Make Electricity?

When you flip a light switch, the lights come on, right? When you press the power button on the remote control, the television comes to life. When you plug in the toaster, you can turn cold bread into hot toast. All these things, and so many more that we depend on every day, require electricity.

Have you ever wondered how we make electricity at Kansas City Power & Light? Here's a step-by-step explanation of the process at work to turn raw materials into the power that lights up our homes, heats our schools and brings comfort to our lives.

  1. Trains and trucks deliver coal to power plants. The plants store the coal in huge piles.
  2. Before it can be burned, the coal must be crushed into small piece and sent on a conveyor belt to bins that hold a one- or two-day supply.
  3. The crushed coal goes through a pulverizer, where it gets reduced to a fine powder. Mixed with hot air, the powder is blown through coal burners into the boiler furnace. In the furnace, the mixture is ignited and burned at a high intensity.
  4. Burning produces a heavy ash, which drops into an ash hopper for disposal. It also produces a lightweight ash, called fly ash, that is removed by electric precipitators and mechanical dust collectors before the gases discharge through the chimney.
  5. Water flows through thousands of tubes in the boiler furnace. The furnace converts the water to steam, which collects in a steam drum at the top of the boiler. The steam then travels at high pressure through a steam line into the turbines.
  6. The steam expands inside the turbines, pushing against blades attached to a shaft. That shaft then starts to spin. A large electric magnet attached to the other end of the shaft spins inside a coil of heavy copper conductors, generating electricity.
  7. The generated electricity then goes to step-up transformers where the voltage is increased for transmission through cables.

If you're interesting in seeing firsthand how we make electricity, you might want to take part in a power plant tour. Tours can be arranged for groups from 12 to 20 individuals. Tour participants must be 15 years old or older. KCP&L hosts plant tours by appointment on Monday through Friday (no holidays). The tours typically begin at 9 a.m. and last 90 minutes. To arrange a tour, contact Carol Baker at 816-556-2809 at least three weeks in advance.

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