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Combustion Turbine and Combined Cycle Plants

What does TVA power have to do with jet planes?

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).

inside a combustion turbine

A combustion turbine: jet-propelled power generation.

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.

Lagoon Creek Combustion Turbine Plant was TVA’s first CT-only facility. That means all the power generated there is produced by combustion turbines. Another CT-only facility has opened in Kemper County, Mississippi, and more CT units are located at Allen, Brownsville, Colbert, Gallatin, Gleason, Johnsonville, Lagoon Creek and Marshall.

TVA's combined cycle plants include Ackerman, Caledonia, John Sevier, Lagoon Creek, Magnolia, Paradise and South Haven.

What makes combustion turbines so cool?

  • These high-tech units can reach full power in just 20 minutes. That means when power demand is really high—like during the hot summer months—TVA can keep everyone’s air conditioners running around the clock.
  • TVA’s combustion turbine units can run on natural gas or low-sulfur fuel oil, which helps reduce the amount of air pollution created by power production.

What’s one big difference between jet engines and CTs?

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.