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Prepared By:
John Edrick E. Coroza
Power Plant Cooling

About 90% of the countrys power comes from

thermoelectric power plants, natural gas, coal,
oil and nuclear energy, all of which require
cooling. The remaining percentage is sourced
from other facilities like hydroelectric power
plants. Renewable sources of energy such as
solar, biomass and geothermal power plants
can be classified as thermoelectric.
Why cool power plants?
In order to produce power, thermoelectric power
plants boil water, which then spins turbines. The source
of heat could be underground geothermal sources, sun
or nuclear reactions. Before it can be reused and
passed through the turbine in the turbine, the steam
has to be cooled. Using cold water for this purpose is
more effective, allowing efficient electricity generation.
Allowing the heat to build-up can lead to acceleration
of wear and tear of the turbines. It can also
compromise the efficiency of the power plant
productivity. A working cooling system is therefore
important. There are different methods of cooling and
the one chosen will depend on several factors.
Types of cooling
One of the main aspects that most peple don't
realize is that in as much as all thermoelectric
plants rely on water to generate electric
power; they dont all rely on water for cooling
purposes. Generally, there are three methods
of power plant cooling. These include wet-
recirculation or closed-loop, once-through and
dry cooling.
Wet-recirculation or closed loop
For systems that use this cooling method, cooling
water is reused during the second cycle. This is unlike
most systems which discharge water to the original
source. Cooling towers are used by wet-recirculation
systems to expose water to ambient air. While some of
it evaporates, most of the water is resent to the power
plants condenser. Wet recirculation systems are only
used to restore water that was lost during evaporation,
they have less water withdrawals compared to their
once-through counterparts. They, however, consume
more water. Wet recirculation systems are the most
popular power plant cooling systems in the country.
Once-through cooling systems
These take water from surrounding sources including rivers,
lakes and oceans and use it to cool power plants. From the
water source, the water is passed through pipes and
absorbs heat from steam in condensers. The warmer water
is then discharged to the water source. Due to their low
price, simplicity and the possibility to sit power plants in
locations with plenty of water sources are a few of the
reasons why these systems were so popular just a few
decades ago. Its still used widely nationwide, but newer
plants are no longer utilizing them probably due their
interruption of local eco-systems. Its also becoming
increasingly difficult to build power plants near water
Dry-cooling system
Rather than use water for cooling, dry-cooling
systems use air to cool steam from turbines. As
theres no water used in cooling, dry-cooling
systems can effectively reduce water
consumption by nearly 95%. While this may seem
like a good thing, it can lead to lower efficiency as
well as higher costs. This includes negative
environmental impact due to mining, fuel
transport and processing. Air pollution could also
increase. Unlike before, dry-cooling systems are
just used in small power plants, particularly
natural gas combined-cycle power plants.
The following are some of the
electricity generation technologies
that use cooling
Conventional electricity technologies such as:
Natural gas
The following are some of the
electricity generation technologies
that use cooling
Renewable electricity technologies such as:
Concentrating solar
Additional key issues
Water type
In as much as power plants rely on fresh water
for cooling, there are several ways in which waste
and salty water can affect the cooling process.
Salty water is often the option, especially with
power plants located in coastal areas. Such
plants, however, face most of the challenges
faced by plants in inland areas. This includes
thermal pollution due to hot water discharge and
damage to aquatic systems due to excess water
Additional key issues
Geographical location
The sitting of a power plant has a huge impact on the
availability of water, type of water used for cooling,
cooling technology options as well as the impact on the
environment. In the case of geothermal or solar power
plants, the location has to have high geothermal
energy and solar radiation respectively. Dry-cooling
technology can be an option with the above power
plants. All the choices made will play significant roles in
the performance of power plants and the impact on
the environment.