Making Power is Hot Work
At Industrial Cooling Solutions Inc., we find all forms of industrial cooling interesting. While we mostly focus on our counterflow and crossflow cooling towers, today we wanted to talk about another form of industrial cooling. Water cooling is an important process for thousands of industrial plants across the nation, but are most important in their application of cooling industrial power plants. Generating power produces a lot of heat and that heat has to be mitigated in a safe, responsible, and cost-effective way. To learn more about how power plants use water cooling systems, continue reading below.
Thermoelectric Power Plants Require Industrial Cooling
In the United States, we get about 90 percent of our electricity from thermoelectric plants. Thermoelectric plants are plants that utilize coal, natural gas, oil, or nuclear rods to produce power. To create power, these plants use their respective energy sources to boil water and generate steam. This steam is then fed through turbines, generating electricity. Once the steam has passed through the turbines it must be cooled again so that it can be recycled back into the plant’s power generation system. To cool this rising steam, thermoelectric plants utilize three main methods.
Once-through: In this method of industrial cooling, systems use water from a nearby source and circulate it through pipes to absorb the steam’s heat in systems called condensers. Once the water has effectively cooled the steam, it is discharged back into a local water source where it will naturally cool. This method of industrial cooling was initially the most popular form of cooling available to plants, because of the simplicity of the system and the low cost to run it. While this type of industrial cooling is still widespread along the eastern United States, most new power plants do not use this system to cool steam. This shift away from once-through systems is due largely to the fact that these systems can cause some major disruptions to the local ecosystems around the plant. Siphoning water from local water sources and then reintroducing warm water into the same system can cause damage local rivers, lakes, and aquifers.
Closed-loop: Closed-loop systems are the main reason that cooling towers even exist. In this method of industrial cooling, heated water is run through a second cycle instead of being discharged back into the original water source. In most closed-loop systems, cooling towers are used to lower the temperature of the water by exposing it to the outside air. While some of the water does evaporate, the effective use of fill media allows most cooling towers to reclaim the vast majority of water that is funneled into them. While this type of industrial cooling system withdraws less water from local sources than once-through systems, it tends to have a considerably higher rate of water consumption.
Dry-Cooling: In this type of industrial cooling, air is used instead of water to cool the steam as it exits the turbine of a thermoelectric plant. This system dissipates heat by routing the steam towards an array of A-framed tubes while a fan blows the steam directly across the tubes. As the steam passes over the metal tubes it condenses, and the cooled water is collected to be reused. While dry-cooling systems use no water and can decrease a power plant’s water consumption by up to 90 percent, they require a higher initial cost, higher auxiliary operating power, and can result in overall lower plant performance and efficiency. Lower plant efficiency means that a plant must use more fuel to produce the same amount of electricity, and can lead to a greater impact on the environment. As a result, most dry-cooling systems are only used in small scale thermoelectric plants.
While we obviously have a preference for closed-loop cooling systems (because they require cooling towers), we can appreciate the other methods of effectively cooling steam as it exits thermoelectric power plants. Here at Industrial Cooling Solutions Inc., we have a track record for fast, professional, and safe industrial cooling tower installations, conversions, and upgrades. To learn more about our industrial cooling tower services, visit our website or contact us today. Let us show you the wonders of industrial cooling towers.