YINCHUAN - In a world first, a one-million-kilowatt (kW) air-cooling system attached to an ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant in a remote part of Northwest China began operating Tuesday.
Completely Chinese-designed and -built, the cooling system is a part of a power plant project, owned by state-owned power generator China Huadian Corp, in Lingwu city, Ningxia Hui autonomous region.
"China has the intellectual property rights to the core parts of the cooling system, including the fan blades, the finned tube and the tube bundle. Their use will reduce China's reliance on imported air-cooling technology," said Li Qihao, general manager of the Huadian Ningxia Lingwu Power Co Ltd.
Before operation began, the cooling system completed a 168-hour full-load test.
The 7.5-billion-yuan ($1.1 billion) project involves two 1.06-million-kW ultra-supercritical generating units. Construction on the project began in March 2009.
The company had previously imported two 600,000-kW generating units.
"Compared with imported facilities, a domestically-made generating unit saves about 100 million yuan in construction," Li said.
Ultra supercritical thermal generation is a clean coal technology that relies on very high pressures and temperatures to achieve greater efficiency. Because it is more efficient, there is less waste heat (the heat not converted into electricity). Still, almost half of the heat produced is wasted.
Air-cooling saves water, an important consideration in arid areas like Ningxia.
The cooling technique will use 20 percent of the water a conventional water-cooled power unit would have used.
"In this case, it means the two generating units can save up to 26.64 million tons of water annually, equivalent to what nearly 800,000 people consume every year," Li said.
In addition, the air-cooling system is environmentally friendly, he added.
"It is estimated annual sulfur dioxide discharges into the air will be reduced by 72,000 tons. Moreover, 253,000 tons of coal will be saved each year," he said.
"The technology suits the conditions of Ningxia, which is coal-rich and arid. It is important for the sustainable development of Ningxia's electricity industry," Li said.
The company is preparing to install another two one-million-kW air-cooling systems, he added.
"After that, ours will be the largest air-cooled power plant in China."