Sunday, October 19, 2008

Smokestack Lightning

Well, Abe of Brookville Daily Photo was quick on the draw yesterday, and he was absolutely right. The answer to yesterday's mystery is Electricity. And it's generated at the Bull Run Steam Plant right outside of Knoxville on the Knox/Anderson County line. This single-generator coal fired power plant, built in 1967, is managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

As I understand it, the coal heats the water to produce steam, which is pumped under very high pressure into a turbine which spins a generator which produces electricity, which makes all the little lights in my apartment blink on when I flip the switch.

Now, coal fired plants in the Southeast have been notorious for their toxic emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide, and mercury into the air. And we all know that what goes up must come down. Kind of like the stock market. But I digress. What came down was acid rain. What we breathe is smog. Visibility in the Great Smoky Mountains has decreased over the years from 93 to 25 miles.

TVA has spent a shipload of money on emission control on this plant over the years, including burning low sulphur coal, and adding a scrubber to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions. But many older plants were "grandfathered" in before the Clean Air Act became law, so in effect, we've closed the barn door while the horse is still galloping madly around the pasture.

The closeup from yesterday is part of the vintage 60s sign on the visitor's overlook. You can tell it was a different world back then. Bull Run was Built For the People of the United States of America. I'm glad that TVA saw fit to spell that out for me. It would be rather inconvenient, I should think, if it was built for the People of some other country while it was sitting here in the middle of East Tennessee. I'd be especially grateful, though, if they'd build some Green Power plants for the People to replace these coal-burners.

I'm also impressed that Homeland Security didn't present me with a one-way ticket to Gitmo when I whipped out my camera to take some photos of the plant. Thanks, guys!


Jim said...

I didnt get to guess. I would have gotten it wrong anyway.

Virginia said...

Aahhh mystery solved. That Abe is a quick one I tell ya. Interesting post today. All that power plant stuff has always confused me. You cleared it right up!

Hilda said...

Aww, I missed the game! We were out again until very late last night.

We also have lots of coal power plants still. I read that even hydroelectric power isn't green because of the heat of the water after it goes through whatever. The only clean energy I know of is solar (and the panels are too expensive) and wind (and they take up so much space) — and neither produce as much power as the more polluting ones. Are we all ready to sacrifice convenience and use less? I honestly don't think so.

Abraham Lincoln said...

Well thanks for the compliment(s). I used to work in Research and Development and among other things helped NCR (National Cash Register Company) come up with some icons and names for products most people don't know they invented, created.

Photochromics (sunglasses or ordinary glasses that darken as light intensity increases). We developed two versions for pilots to wear when flying planes and dropping atomic bombs. The blast would burn the retina of the eye faster than the pilot could blink. Thus the need for eye protection. The photochromic goggles were faster than that. We also developed another set that used what looked like miniature Venetian blinds where the glass over each eye is. This would be akin to the modern blinds inside two panes of glass. In the center, over the bridge of the nose, was a 22 calibre pistol cyclinder that held 5 or 6 rounds or 22 cal shorts. When the sensors over the goggle eye pieces detected an atomic bomb exploding, that set off or fired one of those blank bullets drove down a metal triangle wedge and the wedge closed the blinds on each eye. Faster than the human eye can blink.

And the list of things goes on and on from microencapsulation used for carbonless paper (the capsules contained dye) embedded on the paper surface (felt slightly rough) and when you wrote on it with a paper stylus it crushed the clay capsule and let out the ink to rescue beacons used in the Vietnam war.

It was a by-product we developed from "Thermal" printing used in space capsules because of a fear of sparks that would set off a fire or an explosion if other printing devices were used.

Capsules contained a heat sensitive dye that the key that normally strikes the paper only pressed the paper and got hot enough to melt the capsule and release the dye.

Microencapsulation is now used for "Time Release" pills of all kinds.

So, I could mention more, but this reminded me of icons I saw on early space craft images used in space capsules.

The new No Carbon Required Paper used microencapsulation to embed

marley said...

Glad you weren't locked up, although Homeland probably know what you are up to!

Happy 200th for yesterday :)

I hope you can get someone to replace you as the temporary night shift worker

Saretta said...

I had no idea coal was still being used as fuel in the! I guess it's better than nuclear?

babooshka said...

Guess what as I type Knoxville, Body Farm is on the TV, BBC1 a programme all about different places in America. Now we are off to the Great Smoky Mountains by balloon. Weird. Fascinating and informative post. It wouldn't surprise me if you were disappeared in the middle of the night and into one of those designer orange bolier suits. Or perhaps the body farm. You have topost on the body farm!

USelaine said...

First, Abe, that's fascinating information. You have done so many things!

KG - This is a great series of photos, and I hope that Gitmo remains outside of your personal experience. I hope the Body Farm remains (!?) outside of your experience as well. Because if it was part of your experience, you wouldn't be dead. Right? *eep*

Knoxville Girl said...

Yes, I learn new things every day on CDP; Abe, you are a Renaissance man indeed.
B & Elaine - nope, no Body Farm for me, I intend to refrain from being one of their projects. And it's off limits to all but researchers. I did meet Dr Bass once a few years ago when he wrote his first book on the subject - he's an interesting man with a delightful sense of humor.
Saretta - coal pollutes, and I just don't trust nukes. I'd love to see more development of solar power.
Hilda - yes hot water = fish kills.
marley - I'm sure I'm on their satellite surveillance or whatever they use.

gnometree said...

Great SWF photo. Thanks for sharing.