Heated moist air from a cooling tower forms a visible plume and needs to be predicted, not only for the performance design of the cooling tower, but also for environmental impact assessments. In this study, a computational fluid dynamics analysis is conducted to predict the scale of a visible plume rising from a cross flow cooling tower with mechanical draft (provided by a rotating fan). The results of computational fluid dynamics analysis are verified by comparing predictions with an actual observed plume. The results show that the predicted visible plume represents the observed plume in an error range of 15%–20%, which is permissible for designing a cooling tower. Additionally, the mixing condition of heated dry air and moist air under dry and wet combined operation is examined, and the condition is thought to affect the scale of the visible plume. It is found that, in the case of a mechanical-draft cooling tower, the fan has a mixing function which performs the complete mixing of wet and dry air, and this suggests that the generation of the plume can be determined by the intersection of the operation line and saturation line. Additionally, the effect of external wind on the scale of the visible plume is large, especially for dry and wet combined operation.
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