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Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. The greatest variation in the design of steam-electric power plants is due to the different fuel sources. The very first commercial central electrical generating stations in New York and London, in 1882, also used reciprocating steam engines. As generator sizes increased, eventually turbines took over due to higher efficiency and lower cost of construction. By the 1920s any central station larger than a few thousand kilowatts would use a turbine prime mover. The rest of the energy must leave the plant in the form of heat. If the waste heat is instead utilized for e.
Since the efficiency of the plant is fundamentally limited by the ratio of the absolute temperatures of the steam at turbine input and output, efficiency improvements require use of higher temperature, and therefore higher pressure, steam. However, the obvious hazards of toxicity, and poor heat transfer properties, have ruled out mercury as a working fluid. The steam is therefore condensed as it comes in contact with the cool tubes full of circulating water. This condensed steam is withdrawn from the bottom of the surface condenser. The adjacent image is a diagram of one of the many typical surface condenser designs. For best efficiency, the temperature in the condenser must be kept as low as practical in order to achieve the lowest possible pressure in the condensing steam.
Thus leaks of non-condensable air into the closed loop must be prevented. The feedwater heating equipment then raises the temperature of the water by utilizing extraction steam from various stages of the turbine. The boiler transfers energy to the water by the chemical reaction of burning some type of fuel. From the economizer it passes to the steam drum.