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Home > What's New > Air-cooled condensers eliminate plant water use
  • Air-cooled condensers eliminate plant water use2009-03-06
  • Many plants are being forced by changing environmental laws and public pressure to retrofit existing power generating facilities to closed-circuit cooling water systems or even dry cooling options rather than continue with once-through river or ocean cooling water. In arid regions in particular, there just isn’t enough water available to simultaneously satisfy the needs of power plants and people. (See POWER, January 2008, “Costlier, scarcer supplies dictate making thermal plants less thirsty.”)

    The pragmatic developer may also select dry cooling early in a project because it increases plant siting options and its use can significantly accelerate approval of construction permits because water use issues are taken off the table. Shortening a project schedule by even six months can completely change the economics of a project and easily balance the increased capital cost of dry cooling options.

    Dry cooling applications in the U.S. have not been limited to arid regions but have also been specified for plants sited in eastern, northern, and mountain areas where water is typically more abundant (Figure 1). Why is that? In recent years, there are many more reasons to consider dry cooling in general, and the air-cooled condenser (ACC) in particular, than just the lack of available water (see sidebar). For instance, there are strong indicators that dry cooling applications are becoming a standard power plant design option. In fact, even areas with abundant water resources--like England, Ireland, Belgium, Luxemburg, and northern Italy (Figure 2)--are adopting the technology. In fact, the largest combined-cycle plant in Europe is rated at 1,200 MW and uses an air-cooled condenser.
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