We investigate losses and costs associated with direct steam generation via parabolidal dish concentrators and steam transport to a central steam Rankine power cycle for electricity generation. This study presents a power plant model that accounts for the effects of shading, steam transport, energy conversion at the power block, and capital costs of land and pipework. The pipe network topology used was optimised using a genetic algorithm based on evolution of minimal spanning trees connecting all dishes to a central power block. Optimal pipe sizing of the network is determined by considering the trade-off of frictional losses against thermal losses and material costs. Weather data provides input for the solar resource, and shading is calculated using an established numerical model. The plant model is used to determine the collector layout for which the effective annual revenue is maximised. Results show that the optimal rectangular layout is closely spaced in the North-south direction, along which most of the pipe links run, while East-west spacing is less important. The annual thermal performance of the optimised dish field on a per-unit-area basis is then compared to simulation of a parabolic trough employed for the same purpose. A detailed breakdown of the thermal analysis used forms the basis of comparison between the collector types, giving the overall advantage and a comparison of various sources of loss. We demonstrate that dish fields can collect approximately 49% more thermal energy annually per unit collector area than a trough system employed for the same purpose.

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