Why a Thermal Power Plant Simulator is the Most Effective Option for Practical Operator Training

thermal power plant simulator

Effective practical training is crucial in the energy industry. Experience shows that a thermal power plant simulator is the best way to achieve this. Despite a worldwide undertaking to reduce the use of fossil fuels and the associated emissions known to be responsible for global warming, many countries, including South Africa, are still heavily dependent on coal, oil and gas to generate electricity.

While solar and wind power are significantly more environmentally friendly, these technologies lack the generating capacity of a conventional fossil fuel-fired installation. Nuclear reactors are currently the cleanest means to generate electricity, but they still rely on producing steam to drive their generators. Unless some revolutionary new technology should render the steam turbine obsolete, new operators will continue to require the appropriate practical instruction. Given the burgeoning demand for electricity, training programmes must be fast and efficient. However, traditional on-the-job instruction is neither. Fortunately, there is a far more efficient alternative.

The Thermal Power Plant Simulator is Gaining Popularity With Trainers

The industry is experiencing a severe skills shortage. As a plant’s long-serving operators and engineers reach retirement age, replacing them has become urgent but increasingly challenging. As new plants are built and brought online, and others become due for upgrading, recruitment efforts will need to intensify, as will the associated training programmes. However, the staff shortages pressure experienced personnel to spend more time at the coalface, leaving less to devote to training. Many trainers have been finding that installing a thermal power plant simulator is the best way to solve this problem.

What is a Thermal Power Plant Simulator?

The role of the computer has evolved from a simple calculating machine into a powerful multifunctional device with seemingly limitless potential. However, it is probably the talent of imaginative programmers for creating realistic on-screen fantasy worlds that has been most responsible for promoting the sale of personal computers. For the benefit of gamers, a software programme can create the illusion of another world in which one must battle giant reptilian aliens for survival. The same technology can also recreate the control systems of an ocean liner, a wide-bodied passenger jet or a coal-fired power station in every last detail. More significantly, it will allow trainees to interact with those controls and observe the consequences. Compare that with watching a trainer perform some action, explaining its purpose and what might happen if carried out incorrectly or inappropriately. It’s not hard to understand the appeal of a simulated learning environment.

The Benefits of Training Personnel with a Thermal Power Plant Simulator

The increasingly widespread use of simulations as a training tool is benefitting both instructors and learners. While the airline industry was the first to adopt this technology, it has since earned a place in many other essential fields. For example, surgeons often use simulations to familiarise themselves with new procedures. The facility allows them to repeat an action as often as necessary to perfect it before performing it on a live patient. Perhaps the most famous examples were the programs used to train astronauts in the techniques of docking with the International Space Station and landing a crewed capsule on the lunar surface.

What works for NASA will work equally well for ESKOM or any other power-generating authority and will provide the following benefits:

  • Increased Safety

To gain the maximum value from their practical training, learners should, ideally, have hands-on experience in performing those tasks for which they will be responsible. However, allowing inexperienced operators to do so, even under supervision, could put them, their co-workers and the plant at risk. Performing the same operation on-screen eliminates such possibilities. Any errors a learner makes can have no real-world consequences while observing the simulated results of their mistakes acts as a powerful learning experience.

  • A Shorter Learning Curve

Simulations provide an immersive and compelling experience that quickly captures and holds the learner’s attention, something a live trainer often fails to achieve. While not actively engaged in physical activity, a learner’s attention is apt to stray, and they may fail to hear or fully understand an instruction. In practice, we tend to learn more effectively with our hands and fingers than with our eyes and ears.

  • Increased Training Efficiency

Trainers can incorporate tests into the simulator software to evaluate progress in parallel and generate written reports based on performance. Networking the software also enables them to monitor the activities of multiple learners on demand.

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to learn more about SimGenics’ advanced thermal power plant simulator options.

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