This paper deals with the development and testing of an innovative code for the performance prediction of solar trough based concentrated solar power (CSP) plants in off-design conditions. Off-design calculation starts from data obtained through the on-design algorithm and considers steady-state situations. The model is implemented in flexible software, named patto (parabolic trough thermodynamic optimization): the optical-thermal collector model can simulate different types of parabolic trough systems in commerce, including a combination of various mirrors, receivers and supports. The code is also flexible in terms of working fluid, temperature and pressure range, and can also simulate direct steam generation (DSG) plants. Solar plant heat and mass balances and performance at off-design conditions are estimated by accounting for the constraints imposed by the available heat transfer areas in heat exchangers, as well as by the characteristic curve of the steam turbine. The numerical model can be used either for single calculation in a specific off-design condition or for complete year simulation, by generating energy balances with an hourly resolution. The model is tested with a view to real applications and reference values found in literature: results show an overall yearly efficiency of 14.8% versus the 15% encountered in the Nevada Solar One. Moreover, the capacity factor is 25%, i.e., equal to the value predicted by sam®. Code potential in the design process reveals two different aspects: it can be used not only to optimize plant components and layout in feasibility studies but also to select the best control strategy during individual operating conditions.

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