Water versus Air Cooled Chillers: Which is Best for Power Plants?

Fabrication of a modular chiller plant

To call water a hot commodity is an understatement.  From controversial water trading to desalination, a slew of efforts are underway to solve water scarcity issues in many regions of the world.  Some, like the massive undertaking by Israel to reuse wastewater and desalinate water from the Mediterranean Sea, are having an impact.  But as population and urbanization continues to grow worldwide, so does water consumption, and, naturally energy use.

Water and energy are closely tied. Consider that thermoelectric power plants – which currently provide the vast majority of US electricity — consume a lot of water.  In fact, the power industry is one of the largest water users in the United States.

Presently, in the US, coal plants are being displaced by natural gas plants.  However, gas turbine efficiency is the lowest when the demand for power is the highest, during hot summer months. To offset this negative effect of high ambient temperature, gas turbine inlet air can be cooled via mechanical chillers.

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