The traditional coal-fired power plant suffers two primary drawbacks. Firstly, its overall efficiency is limited and secondly it is a major source of pollution. There are strategies that can be applied to the traditional plant to dramatically reduce the levels of pollution produced. However there is little that can be done to increase its efficiency apart from raising the steam pressure and temperature. This requires expensive materials and may not be cost effective in the near future.
Alternative approaches to coal-plant design do exist. These allow plant emissions (particularly sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in exhaust gas) to be controlled more simply and effectively. They may also offer some improvement in conversion efficiency. The most important of these technologies are fluidised bed combustion (FBC) and integrated-gasification combined cycle (IGCC).
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