Concentrating solar power technology is recognized as an attractive option for solar power. A major limitation however is that solar power is available for only about 2,000 hours a year in many places. Therefore it is critical to find ways to store solar thermal energy for the off hours and it is better to store the energy at high temperatures. The present work deals with certain aspects of storing solar thermal energy at high temperatures with phase change materials (PCM) in the range of 275°C to 425°C. NaNO3 is selected as a phase change material encapsulated by stainless steel. The objective is the storage of hundreds mega-watt-hours equivalent of solar energy in systems using encapsulated phase change materials (EPCM). Numerical predictions of conduction and phase change processes are reported here in the form of transient temperature profiles in the PCM and encapsulation materials of EPCM capsules for convective boundary conditions outside EPCM. The time for heating and melting during charging (storage of thermal energy into encapsulated phase change material) and the time for cooling and solidification during discharging (discharge/retrieval of thermal energy) are predicted for NaNO3 PCM in encapsulation. For a temperature range of about 125°C around melting/freezing temperature of the PCM the time it takes to melt/freeze the PCM during storage/retrieval is much longer than the time it takes for diffusion (sensible heat) storage alone. Depending on the properties of the PCM, the energy associated with the latent heat of melting can be a significant leading to smaller thermal energy storage systems and lower costs. As can be expected, the time for heat transfer is much shorter for liquid heat transfer fluids compared to those for gaseous heat transfer fluids that transport the energy to the EPCM.

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