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英语美文-电厂技术革新

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The invention of the incandescent light bulb by Thomas A. Edison in 1879 created a demand for a cheap, readily available fuel with which to generate large amounts of electric power. Coal seemed to fit the bill, and it fueled the earliest power stations (which were set up at the end of the nineteenth century by Edison himself. As more power plants were constructed throughout the country, the reliance on coal increased. Since the First World War, coal-fired power plants have accounted for about half of the electricity produced in the United States each year. In 1986 such plants had a combined generating capacity of 289, 000 megawatts and consumed 83 percent of the nearly 900 million tons of coal mined in the country that year. Given the uncertainty in the future growth of nuclear power and in the supply of oil and natural gas, coal-fired power plants could well provide up to 70 percent of the electric power in the United States by the end of the century. Yet, in spite of the fact that coal has long been a source of electricity and may remain one for many years (coal represents about 80 percent of United States fossil-fuel reserves), it has actually never been the most desirable fossil fuel for power plants. Coal contains less energy per unit of weight than natural gas or oil; it is difficult to transport, and it is associated with a host of environmental issues, among them acid rain. Since the late 1960’s problems of emission control and waste disposal have sharply reduced the appeal of coal-fired power plants. The cost of ameliorating these environmental problems along with the rising cost of building a facility as large and complex as a coal-fired power plant, have also made such plants less attractive from a purely economic perspective. Changes in the technological base of coal-fired power plants could restore their attractiveness, however. Whereas some of these changes are evolutionary and are intended mainly to increase the productivity of existing plants, completely new technologies for burning coal cleanly are also being developed.
托马斯·爱迪生1879年发明的白炽灯导致对一种便宜、易得、可生产大量电能的燃料的需求。煤似乎符合这个要求,它为最早的发电站提供了燃料(这些发电站是爱迪生自己在19世纪末建立的)。随着越来越多的发电厂在全国各地兴建,对煤炭的依赖也在增加。自第一次世界大战以来,燃煤电厂每年的发电量约占美国发电量的一半。1986年,这些电厂的总发电量为289,000兆瓦,消耗了当年全国开采的近9亿吨煤炭的83%。考虑到核能的未来发展以及石油和天然气供应的不确定性,到本世纪末,燃煤电厂很可能提供美国70%的电力。然而,尽管煤长期以来一直是电力的一种来源,而且可能会持续多年(煤约占美国化石燃料储量的80%),它实际上从来就不是电厂最理想的化石燃料。煤的单位重量所含能量比天然气或石油少;它很难运输,而且与许多环境问题有关,其中包括酸雨。自1960年代末以来,排放控制和废物处理的问题大大降低了燃煤电厂的吸引力。改善这些环境问题的成本,以及建造像燃煤电厂这样庞大而复杂的设施的成本不断上升,也降低了这些电厂从纯经济角度的吸引力。然而,改变燃煤电厂的技术基础可能会恢复它们的吸引力。虽然其中一些变化是渐进的,主要是为了提高现有电厂的生产率,但目前也正在开发完全清洁燃烧煤炭的新技术。
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