Generating electricity is vital but requires extensive knowledge and practical expertise. A power plant simulator can train personnel quickly and efficiently. There are many occupations in which it is convenient and sufficiently effective to train new operators whilst on the job. However, while the idea of an experienced operator first demonstrating an action and then getting a newbie to copy it may work well in some jobs, like retail and manufacturing, this practice can present some serious challenges in other fields.

When we talk about the energy industry in South Africa, the first thought that springs to mind is its longstanding failure to meet consumers’ demands. However, allocating the blame for repeated brownouts and load shedding is pointless. Furthermore, although efforts to produce electricity by more sustainable means, like solar and wind power, have been gaining pace, their combined contribution remains woefully inadequate.

In the meantime, until attempts to generate unlimited cheap energy from a stable fusion reaction are successful, our best hope of overcoming the present energy crisis is to build new conventional and nuclear plants and refurbish or upgrade existing installations where possible. Training new operators quickly, safely and economically will become a priority in each case.

What is a Power Plant Simulator?

Technically, a video animation could serve this purpose. However, it would only be an effective option for demonstrating the theoretical aspects of power plant operation without a suitable means of user interaction. The first digital computer system to permit such two-way collaboration was a flight simulator manufactured in the ‘70s. The simulator’s functionality was derived from technology developed in the ‘50s and ‘60s when computer scientists began to design games for computers.

Modern training simulators leverage gaming technology to generate a virtual working environment where trainees can practice operating various controls and observe the results. A good comparison would be the multi-platform F1 22 game. Players can drive the Formula One car of their choice, wipe out at around 300 kph and survive to make another attempt after a cup of coffee. More importantly, their handling skills and confidence improve steadily with each new attempt to outperform their opponents and reach the chequered flag unscathed.

If you think that’s impressive, imagine the potential of this widely-used, proven technology when used to develop a power plant simulator for training new operators or teaching existing staff new practical techniques. 

Some Benefits of a Power Plant Simulator

The fact that we entrust our lives to airline pilots who perform much of their aviation training on simulators should be sufficient evidence of the effectiveness of this technology. If you need more proof, consider the following advantages over conventional on-the-job practical instruction:

  • Unparalleled safety: The world became aware of the danger of inadequate operator training when, on the 26th of April 1986, a series of errors led to a core meltdown in the nuclear plant at Chornobyl in Ukraine. Yet, given a suitable power plant simulator, the operators concerned could have practised their roles repeatedly until they were perfect, learning from each error and thus averting this regrettable event. Training in a simulated scenario allows new operators to view the results of their mistakes instantly without any consequences in the real world.
  • Rapid results: Like the gaming technology it is based on, a power plant simulator offers learners a compelling, immersive experience with which conventional training cannot compete. The freedom to repeat each exercise until it is perfected significantly reduces a trainee’s learning curve.
  • Minimal downtime: Training with a power plant simulator limits the need to interrupt normal day-to-day operations other than for necessary scheduled maintenance.
  • More cost-effective training: Simulated training can help reduce a plant’s running costs in several ways:
    • There will be less wear and tear on the plant’s control systems when only used by well-trained, competent operators.
    • Simulations are generated by computer software packages that can be networked, allowing trainers to oversee the activities of multiple learners simultaneously.
    • The software can automatically generate progress reports based on timed challenges and embedded quizzes, further reducing training costs while freeing skilled operators to attend to more pressing tasks.
  • Prepare trainees for emergencies: Fortunately, genuine emergencies are rare and only simulations can safely and effectively prepare personnel to handle them.

Purchasing a Power Plant Simulator

SimGenics is a leader in this specialised field. Contact us for more details of our off-the-shelf and bespoke partial and full-scope simulations or user-friendly software to develop your own.

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