SPX Cold-end Optimization: A New Approach to Power Plant Design

SPX has a long history of designing and manufacturing cooling systems and other thermal components for power plants of all types, including coal-fired, nuclear, natural gas, combined cycle, geothermal and solar. In fact, today SPX cooling and thermal equipment is utilized in thousands of power plants around the world.

Equipped with a wealth of power plant engineering expertise accumulated over the past century, the company has deep understanding of how various power plant components can – and should – work together optimally. As such, SPX is well positioned to help power plant owners design their plants and achieve long term peak performance and efficiency. SPX’s best practice approach to power plant systems design hinges on the notion of “Cold-end Optimization.” Paul Lindahl, Director of Market Development for SPX Thermal Equipment & Services, explains why.

What’s the main concept behind SPX’s approach to ‘Cold-end Optimization’ when it comes to designing power plant systems?

Optimizing the long-term performance and efficiency of a power plant hinges on fully understanding how the plant’s cooling system and heat exchange system will need to work together in order to achieve the best possible overall performance. The key to doing this is determining very early on in the plant’s design stage the best possible configuration of the cooling towers, condensers and steam turbines so they will eventually operate together in the most efficient, effective way. In an ideal situation, all of this should be mapped out early on during in the plant design as soon as the steam turbine performance is available.

What should power plant owners do to accomplish this?

To do this, power plant owners need to take a holistic approach to reducing total energy consumption throughout the lifecycle of the power plant. Too often, power plant equipment is purchased based on an assessment of cost and value delivered by each individual component in a vacuum, with limited consideration for how all of the different components will operate in concert. An early focused assessment of interrelated components, with the support of SPX and other key equipment providers, can lead to a superior performing and more cost effective solution, while also reducing overall carbon emissions.

What else is vital to achieving cold-end optimization?

Optimizing the way a power plant’s cooling system operates in tandem with its steam turbine is a vital aspect of cold-end optimization. It’s imperative that the plant’s cooling system be designed with thorough, detailed information about the steam turbine and all its specifications. Unfortunately, because power plant operators are constantly trying to rein in costs, very often the various components are bid on and purchased independently, without fully considering how they will eventually operate together. As a result, cooling systems and steam turbines purchased from different vendors are not always optimally suited to work together.

What needs to change?

In our view, power plant owners should try to move away from a cost-driven approach to plant design, and take more of a holistic approach. That means working closely with SPX’s expert design engineers at the outset, and making sure that all the necessary information is shared early on so that our engineers can appropriately consider how all of the various power plant components need to work together. The end goal should be on achieving the best possible long-term efficiency and performance, balancing upfront costs with plant efficiency to ensure that all of the parts are the right parts.

Why is SPX particularly well-suited to help power plant owners achieve cold-end optimization?

Our Thermal Equipment & Services business has decades of experience and proven expertise across a broad spectrum of cooling systems, heat exchangers and other critical components for power plants of all types. Through our SPX Cooling Technologies and SPX Heat Transfer lines of business, we have the engineering experience necessary to evaluate the full lifecycle operation of a power plant, and perhaps even more important, the deep product knowledge that really only comes from decades of designing and manufacturing these critical components.

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