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Traditional methods of analysis and calculation of complex thermal systems are based on the first law of thermodynamics. These methods use energy balance for a system. In general, energy balances do not provide any information about internal losses. In contrast, the second law of thermodynamics introduces the concept of exergy, which is useful in the analysis of thermal systems. Exergy is a measure for assessing the quality of energy, and allows one to determine the location, cause, and real size of losses incurred as well as residues in a thermal process. The purpose of this study is to comparatively analyze the performance of four thermal power plants from the energetic and exergetic viewpoint. Thermodynamic models of the plants are developed based on the first and second law of thermodynamics. The primary objectives of this paper are to analyze the system components separately and to identify and quantify the sites having largest energy and exergy losses. Finally, by means of these analyses, the main sources of thermodynamic inefficiencies as well as a reasonable comparison of each plant to others are identified and discussed. As a result, the outcomes of this study can provide a basis for the improvement of plant performance for the considered thermal power plants.
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