Research Papers

Technical Challenges and Opportunities for Concentrating Solar Power With Thermal Energy Storage

[+] Author and Article Information
Joseph Stekli

U.S. Department of Energy,
1000 Independence Avenue SW,
Washington, DC 20585

Levi Irwin

ManTech International Corporation,
3865 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 800,
Arlington, VA 22203

Ranga Pitchumani

Fellow ASME
U.S. Department of Energy,
1000 Independence Avenue SW,
Washington, DC 20585

Manuscript received November 21, 2012; final manuscript received February 6, 2013; published online May 17, 2013. Assoc. Editor: Srinath V. Ekkad.

J. Thermal Sci. Eng. Appl 5(2), 021011 (May 17, 2013) (12 pages) Paper No: TSEA-12-1208; doi: 10.1115/1.4024143 History: Received November 21, 2012; Revised February 06, 2013

Concentrating solar power (CSP) provides the ability to incorporate simple, efficient, and cost-effective thermal energy storage (TES) by virtue of converting sunlight to heat as an intermediate step to generating electricity. Thermal energy storage for use in CSP systems can be one of sensible heat storage, latent heat storage using phase change materials (PCMs) or thermochemical storage. Commercially deployed CSP TES systems have been achieved in recent years, with two-tank TES using molten salt as a storage medium and steam accumulators being the system configurations deployed to date. Sensible energy thermocline systems and PCM systems have been deployed on a pilot-scale level and considerable research effort continues to be funded, by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and others, in developing TES systems utilizing any one of the three categories of TES. This paper discusses technoeconomic challenges associated with the various TES technologies and opportunities for advancing the scientific knowledge relating to the critical questions still remaining for each technology.

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Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Illustration of a CSP plant layout consisting of a solar field, TES, and power block subcomponents

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Schematic of (a) a direct TES system, which uses the same HTF in the solar energy receiver and in the TES system and (b) an indirect TES system, which uses different HTFs in the solar energy receiver and in the TES system, requiring an additional heat exchanger

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

Representations of (a) diffuse and (b) sharp temperature gradients in a thermocline. Diffuse temperature gradients occur over a large spatial area while sharp temperature gradients occur over a relatively smaller spatial area.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

Distribution of the number of reported studies in the literature on the various approaches to encapsulation of phase change materials

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

A thermochemical energy storage system relies upon the addition or removal of heat to alter the chemical potential energy stored in a chemical equilibrium (A + B ⇌ C + D). “Heat IN” is considered the charging step while “Heat OUT” is considered the discharging step.



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