Well, one piece of equipment TVA uses to produce electricity—the combustion turbine, or CT—works a lot like a jet engine. In both cases, air enters at the front of the unit and gets compressed, or squeezed. Then the air is mixed with natural gas or oil. Finally, it’s ignited (kind of like lighting a candle).
The hot gas given off by the fire shoots through blades to turn a generator. In the jet plane, this makes the engine roar and lets the plane race down the runway. In the combustion turbine, though, the generator’s turning produces electricity.
At some CT plants, additional equipment captures heat generated by the exhaust heat generated by the gas turbine and uses it to generate up to 50 percent more energy. These are called combined cycle, or CC, units.
The noise. Stand 50 feet away from a roaring jet engine and you’ll probably end up with a huge headache (unless you remember to wear heavy-duty earplugs). At the same distance, the combustion turbine is much easier on the ears—it sounds about like a lawn mower.