The deployment of solar driven air conditioning is a feasible target in all countries where high solar irradiation matches high cooling loads in buildings: the goal is to gradually replace compression chillers and reduce peak electricity demand during summer. Moreover, as solar thermal collectors are installed, solar cooling systems can be profitably employed during winter. In the present work a code has been implemented for the simulation and the design optimization of combined solar heating and cooling systems. The following system layout has been considered: in warm months the cooling demand is satisfied by means of an absorption chiller — driven by a solar collector field — and a reversible heat pump operating in series. A hot storage matches the variability of solar radiation, while a cold storage smoothes the non-stationarity of cooling demand. During winter, the reversible compression heat pump operates for space heating. Solar collectors are used as thermal source at the evaporator of the heat pump, increasing its coefficient of performance. The code, based on TRNSYS platform, is able to simulate the system throughout a year. Besides TRNSYS standard components a detailed model of the absorption chiller has been included, in order to accurately simulate its off-design operation. Using an optimization tool the size of each component is identified for a given space heating and cooling demand. The minimization of life cycle costs of the system has been chosen as the objective of the optimization. Results of a case study are presented and discussed for a solar heating and cooling plant in an office building. The optimization procedure has been carried out with simulations for a typical Northern Italy town (Alpine climate) and a typical Southern Italy town (Mediterranean climate).

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