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Keeping cool

Posted 09-27-11

Cooling Tower ThumbThey blow mist high into the air, looking like inverted rocket engines. The job of the large cooling towers on the west side of the Worcester campus power plant is to keep the plant's equipment operating at proper temperatures while producing electricity, steam and chilled water for campus use. As part of the power plant expansion now underway to accommodate the needs of the Albert Sherman Center, two new cooling towers are being built.

"The cooling towers are not unlike the radiator in your car," said Joseph Collins, director of energy resources at UMass Medical School. "We have a lot of rotating equipment in the plant, and that generates a lot of heat. We circulate water in a continuous process to keep the equipment cool, and the towers take the heat from that water."

In this video, get a behind-the-scenes look at the cooling towers in action. Inside the cowls at the top of the towers, a helicopter-like engine spins rotors blowing air straight up, while water cascades down through the towers to be cooled for recirculation in the plant.

The work is part of a $47-million expansion of the power plant to accommodate a new 7.5 megawatt, gas-fired combustion turbine and associated equipment that will boost the plant's capacity to generate steam, electricity and chilled water.