Electric power plants in the U.S. dissipate 4.3 billion gallons of water per day into the atmosphere through evaporative cooling. As freshwater resources become constrained, it will be essential for power plants to transition from evaporative cooling to dry air cooling. One of the major problems associated with dry air cooling is the large size and associated cost of the dry air heat exchangers due to the large surface area required to overcome the low convective heat transfer coefficient of air. This study investigates using low-grade waste heat available in the combustion exhaust gases (106°C inlet, 86 MW dry waste heat available) of a 565 MW Natural Gas Combined Cycle Power Plant (NGCC) to drive a supplemental high efficiency turbo-compression cooling (TCC) system that decreases the size of the dry air heat exchangers. In this system, both a recuperative Rankine cycle and a supercritical system were considered to drive a turbo-compressor. The low-grade waste heat is supplied to a flue gas heat exchanger in either the recuperative Rankine or supercritical cycle to generate power that drives a vapor compression cycle to supply supplementary cooling for the power plant condenser water. For the TCC system to operate at a high COP, both the turbine and compressor must operate at isentropic efficiencies exceeding 80%. This high efficiency has been demonstrated for centrifugal turbomachines for a wide variety of applications over small ranges of specific speed: from 45 to 100 for turbines, and from 80 to 140 for compressors. In the present study, a wide range of possible fluids was considered to perform a complete system level thermodynamic analysis combined with a turbo-compressor dimensional scaling analysis. The results of the analyses show that the total UA required for both the primary dry air coolers and the dry air condensers in the supercritical TCC system with a COP of 2 is 26% less than the UA required for dry air cooling alone (from 150.7 to 111.5 MW K−1). As a result, using the supercritical TCC cooling system has the potential to reduce the overall cost of dry air cooling relative to the state of the art.

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