Optimal concentration and temperatures of solar thermal power plants

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Title: Optimal concentration and temperatures of solar thermal power plants
Authors: McGovern, Ronan K.
Smith, William
Permanent link: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/4904
Date: Aug-2012
Abstract: Using simple, finite-time, thermodynamic models of solar thermal power plants, the existence of an optimal solar receiver temperature has previously been demonstrated in literature. Scant attention has been paid, however, to the presence of an optimal level of solar concentration at which the conversion of incident sunlight to electricity (solar-to-electric efficiency) is maximized. This paper addresses that gap. The paper evaluates the impact, on the design of Rankine-cycle solar-trough and solar-tower power plants, of the existence of an optimal receiver temperature and an optimal level of solar concentration. Mathematical descriptions are derived describing the solar-to-electric efficiency of an idealized solar thermal plant in terms of its receiver temperature, ambient temperature, the receiver irradiance (radiation striking unit receiver area), solar receiver surface to working fluid conductance, condenser conductance, solar collector efficiency, convective loss coefficients and radiative loss coefficients. Using values from the literature appropriate to direct-steam and molten-salt plants, curves of optimal solar receiver temperature, and optimal solar-to-electric conversion efficiency, are generated as a function of receiver irradiance. The analysis shows that, as the thermal resistance of the solar receiver and condenser increases, the optimal receiver temperature increases whilst the optimal receiver irradiance decreases. The optimal level of receiver irradiance, for solar thermal plants employing a service fluid of molten salts, is found to occur within a range of values achievable using current solar tower technologies. The tradeoffs (in terms of solar-to-electric efficiency) involved in using molten salts rather than direct steam in the case of solar towers and solar troughs are investigated. The optimal receiver temperatures calculated with the model suggest the use of sub-critical Rankine cycles for solar trough plants, but super-critical Rankine cycles for solar tower plants, if the objective is to maximize solar-to-electric efficiency
Funding Details: Other funder
Type of material: Journal Article
Publisher: Elsevier
Copyright (published version): 2012 Elsevier
Keywords: Concentration;Finite-time thermodynamics;Optimisation;Rankine;Solar thermal
DOI: 10.1016/j.enconman.2011.11.032
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:Mechanical & Materials Engineering Research Collection

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