Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technologies are considered to provide a major contribution for the electric power production in the future. Several technologies for such kind of power plants are already in operation. Parabolic troughs, parabolic dishes, Fresnel multi-facet reflectors or heliostats in combination with a central receiver are applied for concentration of the solar irradiation. The energy conversion cycles usually are water/steam cycles (Rankine cycles), but also open gas turbine cycles (Brayton cycle) or combined cycles are possible. One option is to apply closed Brayton cycles using fluids like carbon dioxide or helium.

With respect to commercial considerations, the main parameter driving the decision on which cycle to apply for energy conversion is the thermal efficiency of the process. This is due to the fact, that in case of a power plant without additional fuel supply, no fuel costs have to be considered to determine the levelized electricity costs (LEC). Thus, in the first place the capital costs determine the LEC. In CSP plants one main driver for the capital costs are the heliostats and the mirror size, which are necessary to generate the desired amount of electric power. The necessary solar aperture area directly depends on the thermal efficiency of the energy conversion cycle.

In this paper different closed Helium Brayton Cycles for application with solar central receivers are analyzed thermodynamically. The thermodynamic calculations are performed by application of a self-developed thermodynamic calculation software, which considers the real gas properties of the fluid. The software calculates the cycle’s thermodynamic diagrams (e.g. T-s-, h-s-diagrams) and determines its efficiency.

The results show that thermal efficiencies of approximately 46.6% (and higher) can be reached with a Helium Brayton Cycle. One important parameter is the turbine inlet gas temperature, which is not less than 900 °C. This means that the pressurized receiver for this technology has to bear even higher temperatures.

Furthermore, the paper deals with design considerations for compressor and turbine within the closed Helium Brayton Cycle. Based on dimensionless parameters, the major parameters like stage types, number of stages, rotational speed etc. are determined and discussed.

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