Improving the efficiency of gas turbine systems with volumetric solar receivers

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The combustion process of gas turbine systems is typically associated with the highest thermodynamic inefficiencies among the system components. A method to increase the efficiency of a combustor and, consequently that of the gas turbine, is to increase the temperature of the entering combustion air. This measure reduces the consumption of fuel and improves the environmental performance of the turbine. This paper studies the incorporation of a volumetric solar receiver into existing gas turbines in order to increase the temperature of the inlet combustion air to 800 °C and 1000 °C. For the first time, detailed thermodynamic analyses involving both energy and exergy principles of both small-scale and large-scale hybrid (solar-combined cycle) power plants including volumetric receivers are realized. The plants are based on real gas turbine systems, the base operational characteristics of which are derived and reported in detail. It is found that the indications obtained from the energy and exergy analyses differ. The addition of the solar plant achieves an increase in the exergetic efficiency when the conversion of solar radiation into thermal energy (i.e., solar plant efficiency) is not accounted for in the definition of the overall plant efficiency. On the other hand, it is seen that it does not have a significant effect on the energy efficiency. Nevertheless, when the solar efficiency is included in the definition of the overall efficiency of the plants, the addition of the solar receiver always leads to an efficiency reduction. It is found that the exergy efficiency of the combustion chamber depends on the varying air-to-fuel ratio and, in most cases, it is maximized somewhere between the applied inlet combustion air temperatures of 800 °C and 1000 °C.
Exergy analysis, Solar energy, Volumetric solar receiver, Gas turbines, Combined-cycle power plant, Hybrid plants
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Petrakopoulou, F., Sánchez-Delgado, S., Marugán-Cruz, C. & Santana, D. (2017). Improving the efficiency of gas turbine systems with volumetric solar receivers. Energy Conversion and Management, vol. 149, pp. 579–592.