Tips for Boosting Power Plant Efficiency during Summer Heat Season

Be prepared to address underperforming mechanical equipment and system contaminants.

Keeping up production during summer heat season can be challenging. Heavy demand on power plant equipment and systems due to high ambient temperatures can lead them to break down just when you need them the most — when people and businesses are depending on you to provide a consistent, reliable source of power.

Failure to meet delivered capacity targets will cost you, as will taking a forced outage. Having a plan at the ready to address common issues that may arise can help you drive your power plant efficiency higher despite the heat.

Here are some of the problems you should be prepared to address.

Fouled heat exchangers

Cleaning heat transfer equipment prior to summer heat season is a best practice, but heat exchanger fouling can still occur. A specialty equipment provider such as United Rentals can rent supplemental heat transfer equipment or, if necessary, engineer a temporary solution.

Because heat exchanger fouling is often a precursor to a more substantial mechanical issue, the provider can also help determine the cause and what the next piece of equipment upstream or downstream to examine might be. If the cause is oil contamination, for example, the plant’s generator could overheat and approach failure. It’s a costly catastrophe waiting to happen.

Elevated turbine lube oil temperatures

A high ambient temperature can affect the performance of lube oil coolers. Custom-engineered temporary cooling systems can mitigate the challenges of elevated turbine lube oil temperatures and in turn, reduce the stress on the plant’s cooling systems.

Elevated intake water temperatures

As the ambient temperature rises, so does the temperature of intake water from a lake, river, reservoir or cooling tower system. The result: higher operating temperatures. Temporary thermodynamic solutions from a partner such as United Rentals can lower the water temperatures, reducing the stress on the plant cooling systems.

Cooling tower buildup

Deferred maintenance on cooling towers due to tight budgets can result in scaling and/or corrosion inside a cooling tower and cooling tower fill. These unwelcome additions inside your tower can compromise heat transfer, reduce the cooling tower’s efficiency and increase energy consumption and costs.

A temporary cooling tower or a cooling tower bundled with a heat exchanger (complete with pumping system) is a good solution that lets you perform cooling tower maintenance. United Rentals will work with your cooling tower maintenance team to ensure that power generation stays at the required level while you get your cooling tower back into top shape.

Leaking or aged pumps

Pumping a generating system may not be as exciting as cooling towers, “but they may be one of the most critical pieces of equipment within the mechanical system,” said Eric Jarvis, power and HVAC regional product development manager at United Rentals. If the fluids are not properly circulating within the cooling system, the entire system could fail.

Temporary pumps that maintain the capacity and force needed to keep the fluids moving can buy you time to service, repair or replace the permanent pumps.

System contaminants

As mechanical equipment ages, you’ll likely see signs of metal wear in the bearings of impellers and pumps. “The floating contaminants in the system create fouling, and fouling causes less operational efficiency,” said Jarvis. “It can become a vicious cycle. If a heat exchanger doesn’t work, putting in a new one won’t solve the problem. You’ll just foul that one, too.”

Inline filtration systems are the answer. United Rentals offers several inline filtration systems to serve customer needs. With inline filtration, you’ll have fewer slowdowns and stoppages.

Prior to summer heat season, plant engineers would do well to think about how they will handle any breakdowns or other problems, advised Jarvis. “They will be a step ahead in preparation of the demands of summer heat, knowing what they need to do and what their equipment solutions provider needs to do to mitigate the problem.” No matter what kind of temporary equipment you may need, one big advantage of leased equipment is that zero capital expenditure is required.

Successful plant operations require knowledge and experience and you should always consult with an expert regarding the specific circumstances, applicable rules and regulations related to your site and to your situation.

Our Power & HVAC and Fluid Solutions teams are here to help you plan for heat season and solve problems that arise. Give us a call at 833.426.1188.


Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.

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