China claims ‘revolutionary breakthrough’ in cooling power plants

The technology system will enable the Yanghuopan Power Station in Yulin City, Shaanxi, to save 24,500 tonnes of coal and cut 54,100 tonnes of carbon emissions annually, claims Chinese media.
Baba Tamim
Representational image: Electricity power stations in China emitting smoke.
Representational image: Electricity power stations in China emitting smoke.

PNK Photo/iStock 

China claims the "world's first" power plant equipped with a "natural direct cooling" (NDC) system is now connected to the grid in the Shaanxi Province of the country. 

This marks a "breakthrough" in power plant cooling technology for China, according to a report published by the state-run China Global Television Network (CGTN) on Friday. 

"The technology, described as 'a revolution in industrial air cooling' by local newspaper Shaanxi Daily, makes use of the natural airflow in the plant to guide the heat to the air condenser," said the report. 

According to an explainer issued by Powerchina Northwest Engineering Corporation Ltd., the technology's developer, the NDC system doesn't need any fans to create airflow, conserving electricity and lowering noise compared to conventional air-cooling methods.

Unlike indirect cooling systems, the NDC system doesn't need water pumps, claims the company.

Powerchina Northwest specializes in infrastructure construction. The company is involved in highway and bridge construction and other related services. It also operates in clean energy development, water ecological environment management, etc. 

"The NDC system combined the advantages of both air-cooling and indirect cooling systems," said the Shaanxi-based company.

The exact details of how this NDC system works aren't available so far.

NDC 'cuts emission'

The technology system will enable the Yanghuopan Power Station in Yulin City, Shaanxi, to save 24,500 tonnes of coal and cut 54,100 tonnes of carbon emissions annually, according to a report from state-operated China Media Group (CMG). 

The CMG report claims that the plant emits almost no soot, sulfur dioxide, or nitrogen oxide. With a 660 gigawatt-hour capacity per year, the power plant will aid in resolving central China's electricity crisis.

As per Shaanxi Daily, the NDC technology has been recognized as significant technological apparatus at the national level.

China burns more coal than the rest of the world

China has increased coal mining and coal-fired power plant construction at a faster rate than the rest of the world, which has elevated the country's emissions of greenhouse gases related to energy by nearly 6 percent last year, the fastest rate in a decade. 

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The country burns more coal than the rest of the world combined. And it's conceivable that China will continue to be addicted to coal for decades, New York Times reported in November 2022. 

Western states are concerned about China's ambition to construct new coal-fired power facilities, which may cost up to $1 billion each. 

The U.S. administration's climate envoy, John Kerry, issued a dire warning last year, stating that "adding some 200-plus gigawatts of coal over the last five years, and now another 200 or so coming online in the planning stage, if it went to fruition would actually undo the ability of the rest of the world to achieve a limit of 1.5 degrees" Celsius in global temperature increases.

China's president, Xi Jinping, promised that it would advance nuclear and renewable energy more quickly in a report to the Communist Party's national meeting in October 2022. 

However, he also stressed the importance of energy security, which strongly suggests that China would continue to rely on coal, for which it has the largest reserves of all nations.