please dont give it in steps
You might say got yer home coal use, yer low-scale industrial use, and yer big, expensive modern use.
Coal has been burned for thousands of years. Even very primitive humans could just set a piece down by something that’s burning, and the coal caught on fire! Nifty! Historically, alternatives for getting a lot of energy in one place were pretty much limited to coal, wood, peat and charcoal. Coal has been essential to the development of civilization.
People burn coal any way they like: In a campfire, under a cookpot in a stove, in a kiln, and in steam locomotives. If you haven’t seen coal burn, it has it’s own natural charm (and its own natural stink that your neighbors won’t appreciate. That’s because they are ignorant and unsophisticated, unlike people who use this forum. Muahahaha.)
Coal also burns unintentionally! After all, it’s something that has self-sustaining burning, like wood. This can be a real problem in coal mines, where a fire started by some means doesn’t go out. The first URL below has some lovely pictures of the fire in Centralia, still going today, which started in 1962. This is not by any means unheard of.
Finally, there’s the big question that ecologists mostly care about, because it’s by far the biggest envionmental factor. (Formerly, home coal usage was a much bigger problem, and was the cause, for example, of the famous London fogs. They weren’t really natural, ya see.)
The issue of burning coal for power is complex. It’s fairly easy to get a coal plant going. China is building many more, even as you read. The methods to mine and ship coal are very well understood, so coal power is cheap(ish). That is unless you take in account the pollution caused by the plant. The good news is that modern plants cause much less pollution. The bad news is that plenty of older plants still run.
One basic technology of coal burning plants is easy enough to understand: Smash a bunch of coal into small pieces, and throw (or blow, to be more exact) it into a fire. Then find someplace for the stuff that’s left. (Coal has impurities, and cheaper coal has lots of impurities.)
Finally, you might want to take a stroll down “Peat Lane” in the second URL to get an idea of some of issues surrounding people’s historical use of things to burn. It looks good, I’m going to get some for my Dad. Cheers!
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