You know those huge towers that are symbolic of nuclear power plants everywhere? You may or may not know that those are cooling towers. They are used to help remove heat from the power plant, and are not constantly emitting streams of pollution into the environment, as some people might think. But those are not the only kind of cooling towers that exist. There are several cooling tower types that are used in many different industries and applications.
What are cooling towers, exactly? Well, the iconic cooling tower types often seen outside of power plants are known as natural draft cooling towers, and their primary use is to remove the heat absorbed in the power plant’s circulating cooling water systems. These large, industrial cooling towers are used in several other settings besides power plants, including petroleum refineries, petrochemical plants, natural gas processing plants, food processing plants, semi-conductor plants, and other industrial facilities. Pretty much any industrial facility that utilizes a large volume of water can make use of this type of cooling tower. These industrial cooling towers are used to remove heat from many different sources including machinery and heated process material. Of all the cooling tower types, these ones are the largest, and of the cooling tower types, this one has the honor of holding the record for world’s largest cooling tower. That tower is 202 metres tall and helps to cool the Kalisindh Thermal Power Plant in Jhalawar, Rajasthan, India.
Industrial natural draft cooling tower types, even though they use no mechanical parts, are much different than early cooling tower types. Early cooling towers simply consisted of structures placed on roofs, or simply left free standing, that were supplied with air by fans or natural airflow.
Cooling tower types also consist of mechanical cooling towers, which are often used in heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) applications. Compared to industrial, natural draft cooling towers, mechanical cooling tower types are much smaller. These cooling tower types are often used to “reject” unwanted heat from a chiller.
So the next time you see one of those large cooling tower types outside of a power plant, take a moment to remember that they’re not the only cooling tower game in town. Also take that moment to appreciate the lesser known mechanical cooling tower that sits outside your office building and helps to make sure you don’t sweat to death all day.
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