Engineering, Financial and Net Energy Performance, and Risk Analysis for Parabolic Trough Solar Power Plants
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An investigation was conducted to determine how technology innovations, potential risks, plant configuration and size, operating strategy, and financial incentives affect the electricity output, financial payback, and net energy performance of a concentrating solar power plant. A set of engineering performance, financial and net energy models were developed as tools to predict a plant’s engineering performance, cost and energy payback. The models were validated by comparing the predicted results to operational data from an actual solar power plant. The models were used to analyze the effect of several combinations of design and operating parameters on the amount and cost of electrical output. In addition, they were used to assess the risk of particular component failures and their effect on plant engineering and financial performance, and to conduct an analysis to predict energy payback. The results show some fundamental conclusions. First, the electricity production could be improved by adjusting plant configuration, increase the storage system size and increase the scale of plant. Second, the cost of electricity generated from a CSP plant will be higher (as much as 400%) than that of fossil fuel based power plants. Several methods could be used to lower the cost, such as constructing large plants, adopting new material and innovation components. However, the cost reduction will not be enough. Survival and future development of CSP plants may rely on external support, which might include incentives or supportive policies. Third, generally a CSP plant will have a positive net energy with an energy payback of approximately 5 years. Last, flex hoses are the most vulnerable components in the solar field. Performming regular maintenance work should be necessary to maintain the solar field’s performance level.
Luo, Jun (2014). Engineering, Financial and Net Energy Performance, and Risk Analysis for Parabolic Trough Solar Power Plants. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from