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Dynamic Simulation and Optimization of an Experimental Micro-CSP Power Plant

[+] Author Affiliations
Matthias Mitterhofer, Matthew Orosz

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

Paper No. ES2015-49333, pp. V001T05A007; 14 pages
  • ASME 2015 9th International Conference on Energy Sustainability collocated with the ASME 2015 Power Conference, the ASME 2015 13th International Conference on Fuel Cell Science, Engineering and Technology, and the ASME 2015 Nuclear Forum
  • Volume 1: Advances in Solar Buildings and Conservation; Climate Control and the Environment; Alternate Fuels and Infrastructure; ARPA-E; Combined Energy Cycles, CHP, CCHP, and Smart Grids; Concentrating Solar Power; Economic, Environmental, and Policy Aspects of Alternate Energy; Geothermal Energy, Harvesting, Ocean Energy and Other Emerging Technologies; Hydrogen Energy Technologies; Low/Zero Emission Power Plants and Carbon Sequestration; Micro and Nano Technology Applications and Materials
  • San Diego, California, USA, June 28–July 2, 2015
  • Conference Sponsors: Advanced Energy Systems Division, Solar Energy Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5684-0
  • Copyright © 2015 by ASME


Small scale solar thermal systems are increasingly investigated in the context of decentralized energy supply, due to favorable costs of thermal energy storage (TES) in comparison with battery storage for otherwise economical PV generation. The present study provides the computational framework and results of a one year simulation of a low-cost pilot 3kWel micro-Concentrated Solar Power (micro-CSP) plant with TES. The modeling approach is based on a dynamic representation of the solar thermal loop and a steady state model of the Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC), and is validated to experimental data from a test site (Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Florida). The simulation results predict an annual net electricity generation of 4.08 MWh/a. Based on the simulation, optimization studies focusing on the Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) converter of the system are presented, including a control strategy allowing for a variable pinch point in the condenser that offers an annual improvement of 14.0% in comparison to a constant condensation pinch point. Absolute electricity output is increased to 4.65 MWh/a. Improvements are due to better matching to expander performance and lower condenser fan power because of higher pinch points. A method, incorporating this control strategy, is developed to economically optimize the ORC components. The process allows for optimization of the ORC subsystem in an arbitrary environment, e.g. as part of a micro-grid to minimize Levelized electricity costs (LEC). The air-cooled condenser is identified as the driving component for the ORC optimization as its influence on overall costs and performance is of major significance. Application of the optimization process to various locations in Africa illustrates economic benefits of the system in comparison to diesel generation.

Copyright © 2015 by ASME



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