Coal is a type of organically formed sedimentary rock that is burnt to release energy. Coal comes from the remains of plants and animals that were buried for millions of years.
Thermal power is electricity that is generated from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal. Despite global efforts to reduce the use of coal in the production of electricity, some countries still use coal as a source of electricity. Countries that are still using coal to generate electricity include China, which produces 3785TWh, followed by India, Japan, and Germany.
The use of coal as fuel to generate electricity has a number of disadvantages as follows:
- Burning coal results in the release of sulfur dioxide and heavy metals into the atmosphere . These compounds lead to many side effects, such as respiratory damage to humans. Pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels have been linked to diseases like cancer and asthma in several scientific studies.
- The burning of coal also results in the release of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. Sulfur dioxide is linked to acid rain, that is, when sulfur dioxide cools in the atmosphere it forms water droplets. If the sulfur dioxide is in large quantities, the water droplets reach a saturation point resulting in precipitation. The rain that falls is called acid rain. This type of rainfall is very harmful to the environment and to people.
- The burning of coal is also linked to global warming. This is a situation whereby global temperatures go up. Global warming also results in the rise of water in the sea, which might flood the settlements along the coast.
- Another disadvantage of using coal as fuel to generate electricity is that coal is a non-renewable resource. Even if coal did not pollute and contribute to global warming, we would not be able to rely on them forever. This is because coal is non-renewable, meaning they do not naturally replenish fast enough for humans to use forever. Therefore the use of coal as a source of fuel to generate electricity is unsustainable since the amount of coal available is diminishing every day.