Steam Turbine Optimisation for Solar Thermal Power Plant Operation
Abstract: The provision of a sustainable energy supply is one of the most important issues facing humanity at the current time, given the strong dependence of social and economic prosperity on the availability of affordable energy and the growing environmental concerns about its production. Solar thermal power has established itself as a viable source of renewable power, capable of generating electricity at some of the most economically attractive rates.Solar thermal power plants are based largely on conventional Rankine-cycle power generation equipment, reducing the technological risk involved in the initial investment. Nevertheless, due to the variable nature of the solar supply, this equipment is subjected to a greater range of operating conditions than would be the case in conventional systems.The necessity of maintaining the operational life of the steam-turbines places limits on the speed at which they can be started once the solar supply becomes available. However, in order to harvest as much as possible of the Sun’s energy, the turbines should be started as quickly as is possible. The limiting factor in start-up speed being the temperature of the metal within the turbines before start-up, methods have been studied to keep the turbines as warm as possible during idle-periods.A detailed model of the steam-turbines in a solar thermal power plant has been elaborated and validated against experimental data from an existing power plant. A dynamic system model of the remainder of the plant has also been developed in order to provide input to the steam-turbine model.Three modifications that could potentially maintain the internal temperature of the steam-turbines have been analysed: installation of additional insulation, increasing the temperature of the gland steam and use of external heating blankets. A combination of heat blankets and gland steam temperature increase was shown to be the most effective, with increases in electricity production of up to 3% predicted on an annual basis through increased availability of the solar power plant.
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