The direct steam generation (DSG) in parabolic trough collectors is a promising option to improve the mature parabolic trough solar thermal power plant technology of the solar energy generating systems (SEGS) in California. According to previous studies [Langenkamp, 1998, “Revised LEC Projections and Discussion of Different DSG Benefits,” Technical Report No. DISS-SC-QA-02, Almeria, Spain; Price, et al., 2002, “Advances in Parabolic Trough Solar Power Technology,” ASME J. Sol. Energy Eng., 124(2), pp. 109–125; Zarza, E., 2002, “DISS Phase II Final Report,” Technical Report EU Contract No. JOR3-CT98-0277, Almeria, Spain], the cost reduction in the DSG process compared with the SEGS technology is expected to be 8–25%. All these studies were more or less preliminary since they lacked detailed information on the design of collector fields, absorber tubes required for steam temperatures higher than 400°C, and power blocks adapted to the specific needs of the direct steam generation. Power blocks and collector fields were designed for four different capacities (5MWel, 10MWel, 50MWel, and 100MWel) and different live steam parameters. The live steam temperature was varied between saturation temperature and 500°C and live steam pressures of 40 bars, 64 bars, and 100 bars were investigated. To assess the different cases, detailed yield analyses of the overall system were performed using hourly data for the direct normal irradiation and the ambient temperature for typical years. Based on these results, the levelized costs of electricity were determined for all cases and compared with a reference system using synthetic oil as heat transfer fluid. This paper focuses on two main project findings. First, the 50MWel DSG system parameter comparisons are presented. Second, the detailed comparison between a DSG and a SEGS-like 100MWel system is given. The main result of the investigation is that the benefit of the DSG process depends on the project site and can reach an 11% reduction in the levelized electricity cost.

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