Safer and More Effective Training with a Thermal Plant Simulator

It is certainly possible to learn a foreign language purely by studying a textbook. However, while your subsequent knowledge of vocabulary and grammar may be prolific, without extensive oral practice, your pronunciation could still be a source of confusion for the average native speaker. Communication is a practical activity, and mastering it requires lots of live practice. However, when attempting to learn more crucial tasks such as operating a thermal power plant, practising on a simulator before attempting to avert a real city-wide blackout would be a wise precaution.

The latter example is just one of many situations in which it is more expedient to provide a simulated learning environment than permit trainees to gain practical experience on the job. For example, when faced with undertaking a new or unfamiliar procedure, many surgeons now choose to gain some virtual practice, in this way, before tackling their first patient. In the power generation industry, as in surgery, the consequences of mistakes can be far-reaching and highlights one of the most important benefits of a thermal plant simulator.

In practice, few lessons leave a more lasting impression than those we learn from our mistakes. However, while making errors may be something we can afford to do when coming to grips with quadratic equations or learning to play chess, sometimes mistakes can be dangerous or even fatal. On the other hand, a teaching tool that allows one to repeat every possible mistake until finally perfecting some crucial task could be invaluable. This explains why airline pilots must conduct much of their practical training on the ground. It also explains why the thermal plant simulator has become the preferred option when conducting the practical training of the relevant operators and engineers. 

Given a sufficiently advanced software platform, it is possible to simulate almost any practical task, from operating a crane to docking a shuttlecraft with the international space station. One can only imagine the likely consequences of failure during the latter operation when performing a real-life docking attempt. Despite the most extensive precautions, emergencies may still occur. For those who work in the control room of a thermal power plant, a simulator offers the only safe means to recreate such emergencies, and to learn, under life-like conditions, whatever may be necessary to deal with them safely, effectively and as quickly as possible. More importantly, if, at first, a trainee does not succeed, he or she is free to repeat the exercise as often as may be necessary to master the procedure, without the risk of any real-world consequences.

A power station’s lifespan is finite. At some stage, decommissioning or an upgrade will be necessary. Both eventualities involve procedures that might require some prior practice on a thermal plant simulator. Under such unusual circumstances, training can be just as crucial to experienced staff members as for a new recruit. While the latter may still need to become familiar with a plant’s routine tasks such as start-ups, shutdowns and safety procedures, simulations offer trained personnel other benefits. 

Given the economic pressures facing many power generation companies today, it could pay them to ensure their old hands gain a better understanding of how to optimise plant performance, economise on fuel consumption and conserve energy. A thermal plant simulator offers an effective means to achieve these and similar desirable goals without interrupting production. 

The simulations available for such purposes can vary in several respects. For example, while some may be highly comprehensive and cover all aspects of a power station’s operation, others may focus on a single activity relevant to a given end user’s specific need. Also, whether limited or comprehensive in its content, a simulation may either be generic or a duplicate of the end-user’s control setup, accurate in every last detail. Whatever the choice, a thermal plant simulator remains the safest and most effective way to conduct the practical aspects of operator training.

For those who have the skills and the time, there is the option to purchase suitable software and undertake the development in-house and include as much or as little visual detail and functionality as they wish. For those who may lack the necessary resources, there is an alternative. Instead, they can either purchase a generic, off-the-shelf product or commission SimGenics to develop a thermal plant simulator that will conform to their required specifications precisely. 

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