Much human activity has an effect on the environment and, as already outlined above, power generation is no exception. Some of these effects are more serious than others. The atmospheric pollution resulting from coal, oil and gas combustion has had obvious effects. But combustion of fossil fuel also releases a significant amount of heat into the environment, mostly as a result of the inefficiency of the energy conversion process. Is this a serious side effect? In most cases, it probably is not.
Power stations have a physical presence in the environment. Some people will consider this a visual intrusion. Most make noises, another source of irritation. There are electromagnetic fields associated with the passage of alternating currents through power cables. A power plant needs maintaining, servicing and often needs providing with fuel. That will generate traffic.
Clearly some of these effects are more far-reaching than others. Even so, the local effects of a power station may be a significant issue for the immediately adjacent population. Deciding what weight must be given to such considerations when planning future generating capacity can be a fear-somely difficult issue. It is the big issues, however, particularly global warming, which will have the most significant effect on the future of power generation.
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