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9.1 Introduction
For decades the response to the ever-growing need for electric generation capacity was to build a new steam power plant, one not very different from the last. Today the energy conversion engineer is faced with a variety of issues and emerging technologies and a changing social and technological climate in which a diversity of approaches is likely to be accepted. This chapter intends to indentify some of these concerns and opportunities. No claim of completeness is made. No chapter, or book for that matter, could thoroughly cover this domain. The reader is referred to the bibliography at the end of the chapter as a starting point for continued study.
A few characteristics of importance in new power initiatives are: low capital and operating costs, ability to operate with a variety of fuels and with high tolerance to fuel variability, short construction time, low emission of pollutants, marketable or at least inert and easily disposable waste products, and high efficiency, maintainability, financeability, and reliability. Increasingly, the new initiative may take the form of repowering the the old plant so as to increase efficiency, meet pollution standards, and minimize the financial impact of meeting new power demands.
The improvement of the efficiency of power plants using conventional cycles is usually evolutionary in nature, by virtue of high temperature limitations and advances in materials. Hence, only gradual improvements in efficiency can be expected. On the other hand, significant improvements in efficiency can sometimes be obtained by combining conventional cycles in appropriate ways. Such power plants are referred to as combined-cycle plants. This chapter will examine the characteristics of several combined-cycle plants.
It is evident from the study of the Rankine and Brayton cycles, and in fact all heat engines, that the rejection of large amounts of thermal energy to the surroundings accompanies the production of useful power. This heat rejection can be reduced by improving the thermal efficiency of the cycle but cannot be eliminated. If this energy is not to be wasted, it is logical to seek applications where both power and rejected heat may be utilized. Power plants that produce mechanical or electrical power and utilize “waste heat” for industrial processes are called cogeneration plants. Several examples of cogeneration are considered in this chapter. District heating and other possible applications of waste heat are also discussed.
Another key problem facing the energy conversion engineer is the anticipated scarcity, in a few decades, of fuels such as natural gas and oil, relative to the vast resources of coal available in the United States and elsewhere. Perhaps future power plants should utilize this coal and nuclear energy to save the natural gas and

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