About Steam Power

Steam power is, literally, the power derived from steam (generally pure water [H2O]) expanding and cooling from high temperature and pressure to lower temperature and pressure. To derive power (and useful work) from steam, certain components are usually required to create a complete steam power system (a steam engine). The "typical" steam engine components are:

  • Water - the working fluid that turns from liquid to steam (and maybe back to liquid over and over in a cycle)
  • A water pump - to pressurize the water
  • A heat (energy) source - to heat the water
  • An expander - to extract the useful work as the water expands
  • A condenser - to condense the steam back into liquid water and allow re-use of the water
  • A tank or reservoir - to store the condensed water for re-use
  • Controls - to start and stop the engine, adjust the heat input and steam flow, and maintain other operating parameters
  • The history of steam power is well documented and widely known, as are many of steam power's past contributions to modern society. Most people today view the steam locomotive as the most familiar steam powered machine. Steam locomotives still operate throughout the world today (and new ones are being built); large coal, oil, and natural gas fueled steam power plants and combined cycle power plants are the most common uses of steam power in the world today. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration more than 87% of the electricity in the US in 2011 was generated completely by steam power or in steam power combined cycle systems. And, solar thermal steam power plants are now in commercial operation worldwide.

    Steam powered automobiles (many of which remain operational today) were proven feasible, even with technology from the late 1800's. With the advent of low cost gasoline in the 1900's, the internal combustion engine thrived and steam powered automobile technology development ended ... until now.

    Sustainable Steam Power

    Sustainable steam power is defined by the energy source that heats the steam. Steam power is Sustainable if the answers to the following questions are "Yes".

  • Is the energy source naturally renewable at the rate of energy use?
  • Is the energy source renewable by human interaction at a rate that can be sustained indefinitely, without the depletion of natural resources?
  • Does the use of the energy source reduce our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels?
  • Does the use of the energy source result in reduced contamination of air (including net carbon emissions), water, and land?
  • Sustainable steam power is being developed today to replace or reduce the use of gasoline and other oil-based technologies in the following industries:

  • Automobiles, motorcycles, and buses
  • Locomotives
  • Ships
  • Single family, multi-family, village, commercial, and utility scale electric generation
  • Water purification and pumping
  • Mechanical power for manufacturing and food processing

  • For more information about Steam Power please visit our Publications and Featured Sites.

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