In the near future, due to the growing share of variable renewable energy in the electricity mix and the lack of large-scale electricity storage, coal plants will have to shift their role from base-load operation to providing fluctuating back-up power. However, current coal power plants, based on steam Rankine cycle, are not optimized for flexible part-load operation, resulting in an intrinsic inadequacy for fast load variations. The founding idea of the H2020 sCO2-Flex project is to improve the flexibility of pulverized coal power plants by adopting supercritical CO2 Brayton power cycles. Despite the extensive literature about the design of sCO2 plants there is still limited discussion about the strategies to be implemented to maximize system efficiency during part-load operation. This paper aims to provide deeper insight about the potential of sCO2 power plants based on recompressed cycle with high temperature recuperator bypass configuration for small modular coal power plants (25 MWel). Analysis focuses on both design and part-load operation providing a preliminary sizing of each component and comparing different operating strategies. Results demonstrate that sCO2 coal power plants can achieve competitive efficiency in both nominal and part-load operation thanks to the progressive increase of heat exchangers effectiveness. Moreover, they can be operated down to 20% electric load increasing power range of coal plants. Finally, the possibility to optimize the cycle minimum pressure ensures a safe operation of the compressor far from the surge line and to increase the performance at low load.

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