Improve Your Operator Training with a Thermal Power Plant Simulator

While the invention of the steam engine may have fuelled an industrial revolution, its main benefits were restricted to the world’s factory owners. When later, the steam engine was adapted to drive a generator and produce electricity, everyone on earth became potential beneficiaries. Today, electricity consumption threatens to exceed production capacity and training new operators with the help of a thermal power plant simulator is just one way in which the electrical energy industry is continuing to cope. 

Anyone who has ever flown will have no problem understanding why much of a rookie pilot’s training takes place on the ground. Just one glance at the complex array of the dials and controls on the flight deck of a 747 is evidence enough of the value of simulated flight training. They may be located on terra firma, but the controls of a typical electricity generating station are equally complex and the responsibilities of the operators just as crucial. The development of the thermal power plant simulator has both simplified and accelerated the process of training new operators.

Energy Suppliers Under Pressure

To cope with the ever-increasing demand for electricity, authorities must strive to build new plants and upgrade their existing generating infrastructure. In either case, because systems are continually evolving, there is an ongoing need within the industry for existing staff to adapt to new and unfamiliar systems, as well as to recruit new entrants. A general shortage of candidates with experience of the power generation industry is only adding to the training burden. So, why divert essential staff for training duties or risk interruptions to production? Instead, using a thermal power plant simulator to upskill or train operators from scratch could eliminate the need for such measures. 

While many power companies operate simple cycle plants, these are used mainly to provide additional output during periods of peak demand and are not usually run continuously throughout the year. For continuous use, the better option is a combined cycle plant in which the residual heat from a gas turbine generator is fed to a steam turbine, which then adds to the total output. Each system, therefore, has different operating requirements and, in turn, will require a different thermal power plant simulator for training purposes.

What are the Options?

Not only does the primary operating mode of a plant vary but, between one manufacturer and the next, the layout and design of its controls can also differ substantially. Depending on whether the system was developed by Hitachi, Honeywell, Siemens, or some other process control specialist, operator training will need to be designed with this in mind. With the aid of suitable computer modelling software, it is possible to create a thermal power plant simulator that will faithfully reproduce any required specification.

That said, in some circumstances, a more generic type of training can be quite sufficient. This generic option carries the advantage of being an off-the-shelf product rather than a bespoke one. Purchasing a generic product also means that the cost of acquisition will be correspondingly lower. If the need is for a more true-to-life learning experience, SimuPACT may be the solution. It is an advanced integrated software platform with which an engineer can develop a thermal power plant simulator that will duplicate the control systems and layout of any desired live operating environment, right down to the smallest detail. 

For the developer, the platform’s intuitive graphical user interface serves to speed and simplify the creation of the simulation. For the trainee, the platform creates a learning experience that will be virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. SimuPACT integrates seamlessly with 3D PACT for additional options and also includes a virtual instructor that enables the creation and inclusion of training modules with a thermal power plant simulator, to provide a built-in guide for each procedure that forms part of a given simulation. One particularly valuable feature of the virtual instructor is the option to set time limits on a given action and, if desired, to award scores and penalties from which to assess an individual’s progress.

Getting Started

Once you have decided to introduce this form of training, the first step will be to seek expert help. Given its global reputation for quality service and products, and a track record of successes throughout South Africa, your best possible option will be to contact SimGenics. An expert will be happy to discuss your station’s thermal power plant simulator requirements.

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