Achieving near-water-cooled power plant performance with air-cooled condensers

John G. Bustamante, Alexander S. Rattner, Srinivas Garimella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Power plants using air-cooled condensers suffer a 5-10% plant-level efficiency penalty compared to plants with once-through cooling systems or wet cooling towers. In this study, a model of a representative air-cooled condenser (ACC) system is developed to explore the potential to mitigate this penalty through techniques that reduce the air-side thermal resistance, and by raising the air mass flow rate. The ACC unit model is coupled to a representative baseload steam-cycle power plant model. It is found that water-cooled power-plant efficiency levels can be approached by using enhanced ACCs with a combination of significantly increased air flow rates (+68%), reduced air-side thermal resistances (-66%), and air-side pressure losses near conventional levels (+24%). Emerging heat-transfer enhancement technologies are evaluated for the potential to meet these performance objectives. The impact of ambient conditions on ACC operation is also examined, and two hybrid wet/dry cooling system technologies are explored to improve performance at high ambient temperatures. Results from this investigation provide guidance for the adoption and enhancement of air-cooled condensers in power plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)362-371
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Thermal Engineering
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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