Evaporative Cooling or Mechanical Chilling: Which Works Best in Power Production?

If you’re outside working on a hot summer day, it’s inevitable that moisture will appear on your brow.  A dry breeze evaporates the perspiration and cools down your body. This is nature’s way of keeping you productive because no one works efficiently when they are too hot. Nature’s cooling technique is effective — as far as it goes. But clearly, you’ll cool down more in an air conditioned room than by relying on outdoor breezes. This is especially true when it is humid, since damp air cannot absorb as much moisture as dry air.

So AC is more effective and predictable than nature to remove the sweat off your brow on a hot August day.

How does this apply to power generation? Like us, the gas turbines used in power plants operate less efficiently when the air is too hot.

And interestingly, the two most common technologies for cooling power plants — evaporative cooling and mechanical chilling – mirror the way we cool down our bodies. They even share similar pros and cons.

Here is a more detailed description of the two cooling technologies, as they are used in power production.