Optimization of a SEGS solar field for cost effective power output

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Bialobrzeski, Robert Wetherill
Jeter, Sheldon M.
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This thesis presents and demonstrates procedures to model and optimize the collector field of a parabolic trough solar thermal power plant. The collector field of such a plant is universally organized into parallel loops of solar collectors. Heat transfer fluid returning from the energy conversion plant is heated to a moderately high temperature in the field. Typically fluid enters a collector loop around 270 °C and leaves at 380 °C. The fluid is then returned to the plant to generate steam. In the first part of this thesis, the collector field and the energy conversion system of a typical parabolic trough solar thermal power plant are modeled. The model is compared with actual performance data and is enhanced and verified as necessary. Originally, the collectors in the plants under consideration were provided with evacuated tube receivers of the highest feasible efficiency without much regard for cost effectiveness. In practice, these receivers have failed at an unexpected rate and need replacement. It is unlikely that a very expensive evacuated tube receiver is now the most cost effective for every location in a collector loop. In particular, a receiver optimized for 270 °C operation may not be optimal at 380 °C. For example, a relatively inexpensive receiver with a flat black absorber and no vacuum may be more cost effective in the lower temperature segments of a loop. In the second part of this thesis, a procedure for the optimum deployment of collectors is developed and demonstrated. The results of this research should be directly applicable to the refurbishment and upgrading of several of the largest solar energy plants in the world.
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