What Are the Benefits of a Combined Cycle Power Plant Training Simulator?
Combining gas and steam turbines generates up to 50% more power, and a combined cycle power plant training simulator is a fast and effective training tool. The demand for electricity from the domestic and industrial sectors never ceases to grow. Despite fears of greenhouse gases and global warming, environmentally friendly and renewable energy sources are proving inadequate to meet those demands. While the plant remains dependent on the combustion of fossil fuel, a combined cycle installation utilises the waste heat from the gas turbine to generate additional power from a steam turbine at no extra cost.
Although the growing frequency of brownouts and load shedding around South Africa is due mainly to inadequate, faulty or outdated infrastructure, the generating industry is experiencing another equally serious problem. As skilled and experienced operators reach retirement age and leave, it has become increasingly difficult to train others to replace them without their support. Fortunately, simulations can be a highly effective alternative.
How Gaming Technology is Revolutionising the Combined Cycle Power Plant Training Simulator
When Space Invaders first appeared on the green screen CRT monitors of early desktop computers, millions of gamers of all ages were captivated by the simple but compelling game. Later, more sophisticated animations led to the growth of a billion-dollar industry as adults and children scrambled to purchase gaming consoles and acquire photorealistic games from companies like Nintendo. The aviation industry was among the first to apply this technology to training using a sophisticated reproduction of the flight deck and a lifelike visual display to simulate flight.
What works for trainee pilots works equally well for many of those engaged in other practical activities, including power station operators. Furthermore, game-based learning offers several significant advantages over traditional on-the-job instruction, including the following:
- Increases Safety: Power stations are full of potential hazards that pose the risk of injury or even death for the unwary operator. These include combustible materials, heavy machinery, superheated steam and electric shock. One can explain the risks and repeat them, but nothing could leave a more lasting impression than witnessing an accident and its consequences due to a mistake. Using a computer simulation for training allows novice operators to make errors and observe their effects without endangering themselves, their colleagues or the plant. Furthermore, it has been well-established that learning from one’s mistakes leads to improved retention and competency. Learners may repeat a given task as often as they wish until it becomes second nature.
- Emergency Handling: While every care is taken to prevent them, emergencies occur, and staff must be thoroughly trained to respond. When they happen, there is little opportunity to provide detailed instructions for learners, who can do no more than observe. Emergency procedures may be outlined in the classroom, but a simulation can provide a powerful practical experience free of all risk.
- Encourages Participation: Who doesn’t enjoy a great computer game? While standing around waiting for a turn at the controls, one’s attention tends to wander, and an instructor’s words are easily missed. By contrast, game-based training creates a fully-immersive, interactive environment that is every bit as compelling as Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty. In short, combined cycle power plant training simulators have the potential to transform a chore into a fun activity.
- Reduces Pressure on Trainers: The software can be designed to automate some tasks usually performed manually by the trainer. For example, the programme could include questionnaires and timed tasks that allocate scores to measure a learner’s progress. It might also provide pop-up hints for learners who require help, and the progress data can be automatically processed to generate written reports.
- Cost-Effective: Other than purchasing the software, no capital outlay should be necessary. The programme can be run on existing PCs, and when connected via a local area network, multiple learners can use the system simultaneously. “Off-the-job” training also eliminates the risk of added wear and tear on plant equipment and maintenance costs.
Getting Started with a Combined Cycle Power Plant Training Simulator
There are several options. The cheapest is to purchase a generic simulation, which will provide the practice but won’t replicate the working environment. Alternatively, you could commission a company to create a partial- or full-scope photorealistic simulation of your plant. The third option is to develop the simulation in-house using a specialised software package such as SimuPACT or 3D PACT.
All of these options are available from SimGenics. Feel free to contact us if you would like to learn more about how to optimise your combined cycle power plant training.