Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Power-generating plants use evaporation to cool their hot water.

Detailed Description

Cooling towers at a power-production facility

Power-generation plants, including Plant Bowen in Georgia, produce power by using heat (in this case, from burning coal) to convert water into steam. The steam, very hot and under a great deal of pressure, is pumped through pipes to turn the blades of a turbine, which is connected by a shaft to a generator. The generator spins and produces electricity.

One very significant by-product of thermoelectric facilities is heat from the power-production equipment. Plants withdraw lots of water (which is why they are often located alongside rivers and other water bodies), use it to cool the equipment, and then need to release used water back into the environment. Releasing hot water back into rivers would harm the ecology, so many power plants have tremendous cooling towers, where hot water is sprayed inside and evaporation is used to cool the release water before it goes back into the environment.


Public Domain.