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Didcot Power Station Trip.

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Didcot Power Station Trip

In December 2002 i was part of a group of students who went to Didcot power station to be shown how physics is used at the power station.

As part of this task i have selected two features of the power station that use physics, the first section i have selected is how the kinetic energy of the turbines is turned in to electrical energy by the generator. My second subject is how and why transformers are used to reduce loss of energy.


Generating an electrical current is power stations is done by turning a large electromagnet inside coils of wire. For this to be efficient the magnetic field must cut through as many wires as possible but due to the limited range of the magnetic field, there is an extent at which adding more coils does not help to generate more electricity.

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Since then we have developed generators which rotate a coil of wire inside a magnet. These generators are not very good for producing large amounts of electricity because floating contacts (contacts that have two parts which can move independently of each other but still maintain a good electrical conductivity) must be used to connect the ends of the coil to the circuit. Floating contacts are very expensive and can not carry a very high current.

Large scale generators use fixed position coils or staters and a moving electromagnet.

The electromagnet requires a lot less power than is produced in the coils so floating contacts are feasible here. Although the coils are in a fixed position they cannot carry 500MW of electrical power so the coil is broken up in to 3 phases each at 120

degrees rotation to each other.

With  phases only 166MW of power is flowing through the wires in each phase.

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In industrial transformers many thousands of wire turns are used to make them more efficient, some transformers can be 99% efficient only loosing a small amount of energy to heat and sound. Theses transformers differ greatly from the transformer shown above, the coils are wrapped around each other so more of the magnetic field is collected and converted back to electricity.

At the power station very think cables approximately 20cms in diameter are used to connect the generators to the transformers, this is because very high current is flowing here. At the other side of the transformer the cables on the pylons are significantly thinner than the cables connecting to the generator because less current is flowing.

The national grid uses a voltage of approximately 400kV. On the national grid electricity can travel great distances so the current must be minimal to reduce loss of energy.

...read more.

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