1930’s - Coal-fired Power Station

With electricity, power no longer needs to be generated close to where it is used. Via the National Grid, it can be distributed all over the country. Practically all of Britain's power stations operate along the same principles, using coal, oil, gas or uranium fuel to produce steam that drives the turbo-generators which produce the electricity. Various means are used - rail, water and pipeline - to transport the vast quantities of fuel needed. Why do some people find these buildings impressive, and yet to others they are eyesores?

Electrically-driven machines and generators, introduced in the 19th century, could be installed almost anywhere, freeing industry from the need to locate close to the power source. As with gas, the first power stations - built from the 1880s onwards - were small-scale, privately owned affairs supplying local consumers. By the time the National Grid was created forty years later, it was infinitely more economical to site generating stations on or with good rail access to the coalfields. Electricity was distributed via a network of overhead power lines. Reflecting the huge scale of the plant required, the architecture could be stunning - this is the now-closed Battersea power station on the River Thames, to which coal was brought in barges. In a typical coal-fired power station the fuel is pulverised as fine as talcum powder before being fed into boilers to produce high-pressure steam, which drives a turbine connected to the main generator. Electricity is produced by the turbine rotating an extremely hi-tech electromagnet within coils of wire. Tremendous force is needed to turn the shaft of the generator against the resistance of the magnetic field and this energy is converted to electrical current in the coils. The spent steam is then condensed back into water bypassing it over cooling vanes. Cooling towers create a draught to lower the temperature of this water - which is recycled through the condensers - as it sprinkles down inside them. This creates the clouds of water vapour that come from the tops of the towers. Many power stations welcome visitors.

1880’s - Steam-powered Factory

1990’s - Nuclear Power Station