Solar thermal power plants are a promising way of providing clean renewable electric energy. These plants concentrate the incoming solar direct irradiation in order to heat up a heat transfer fluid. The collected thermal energy can be stored or instantly delivered to a power block where part of the thermal energy is converted to electrical energy in a turbine with the connected generator.

The parabolic trough collector plant is the today’s most developed solar thermal power plant type. There the solar irradiation is focused on receiver tubes which are concentrically placed to the focal lines of the parabolic trough collectors. A high temperature oil is pumped through these receiver tubes, which collects the heat and delivers it later on to the steam generator of the connected Rankine steam cycle. In order to improve the efficiency of these solar thermal power plants, the direct steam generation (DSG) within the parabolic trough collector receiver tubes is being investigated.

Both types of parabolic trough collectors, the conventional type using oil as heat transfer fluid and the direct steam generation type, are subject of this paper. A detailed steady-state parabolic trough collector model was developed for each type, using the thermodynamic simulation software IPSEpro. The developed models consider the cosine-loss attenuation factor, the shading attenuation factor, optical losses, as well as thermal losses. Appropriate heat transfer and pressure loss correlations were implemented for both collector types. For the direct steam generation model, distinct collectors for the preheating section, the evaporation section and the superheating section were used. Furthermore, the suitable length of discretization for the modeling of one collector loop within a center-fed solar field was investigated. Calculated solar field performance data for the oil concept were compared to validated data available in open literature. Finally, a power plant simulation with each collector type, over the course of one reference day, showed the great potential of the direct steam generation, as well as the suitability of IPSEpro for running solar thermal power plant yield simulations.

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