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In the turbine hall at Drax, a power plant in the English county of Yorkshire, sit six monsters of angular momentum. They are massive—2,800 tonnes each—and complex, composed of 28 turbine sub-assemblies. And they spin on their axes 3,000 times per minute. Place your hand on the blue metal casing around one of them and your whole body thrums in harmony. The hall’s floor hums a flattened A three octaves below middle C that numbs the soles of your feet.
The turbines are driven by high-pressure steam produced in vast boilers that hang from the ceiling. The boilers’ walls are meticulously insulated, but you can still feel the heat of their 1,100°C (2,000°F) bellies at 20 paces. For most of Drax’s life those flames have been fed by a steady stream of coal, tens of thousands of tonnes of it pulverised and blasted into the blaze every day.