Optical and thermal integration analysis of supercritical CO2 Brayton cycles with a particle-based solar thermal plant based on annual performance, R. Chen, M. Romero, J. González-Aguilar, F. Rovense, Z. Rao, S. Liao, Renewable Energy, 189, 164-179, 2022, Online version, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2022.02.059


Central receiver concentrating solar power (CSP) plants based on particles as heat transfer fluid in solar circuits and supercritical CO2 (S–CO2) Brayton cycles can fulfil the requirements for next generation CSP to improve solar-to-electric efficiency and reduce energy storage costs. However, effective incorporation of these two concepts requires an in-depth understanding of their characteristics and an appropriate approach to match them. This paper addresses the importance of the design features and annualized performances of the optical subsystem (heliostat-receiver) and the thermal-to-electricity subsystem (solar receiver-energy storage-power block) on the global optimization of any integrated CSP plant. The analysis lies in a complete model of a particle-based CSP plant, which includes detailed modeling for the solar field, a cavity solar receiver with an up bubbling fluidized bed (UBFB) tubular panel, particles storage tanks and a recompression S–CO2 Brayton cycle. The design incident irradiance on the receiver aperture (IR) and the particles temperature at the receiver outlet (Tp) are identified as key parameters determining the solar-to-electric integration procedure and affecting the overall plant design and annual performance. Regarding subsystems located upstream and downstream of the receiver, the effects of heliostat and power block characteristics on the optimal IR and Tp are also evaluated, represented by the heliostat beam quality and main compressor inlet temperature. Results show that IR around 1,200–1,500 W/m2 provides the maximum system design efficiency and annual efficiency. Improvements on heliostat beam quality and power block efficiency help to increase the optimal IR and overall system efficiency. In the optimal range of IR, increasing Tp leads to higher system design efficiency, but lower system annual efficiency and annual electricity output. The optimal combination of IR and Tp contributes to a minimum heliostat design area, representing the integration trade-off between the system optical and thermal characteristics.