Numerical Analysis of Residential Electricity Generation Using Solar Thermal Energy
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Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. Department of Mechanical Engineering Honors Theses; 2010
Currently, the world has an ever increasing energy demand and available resources such as fossil fuels are not a sustainable option for the future. Solar thermal electricity generation is one option to curve this problem, but the technology is currently limited to large utility scale. This thesis explores the fluid selection process and optimization of an Organic Rankine Cycle that could provide the electrical load of a residential home. Four working fluids (R600a/iso-butane, n-pentane, methanol and ethanol) and four system configurations (Rankine with and without superheating, open loop and closed loop pre-heating) were parametrically explored to see if it was feasible to create a system with efficiencies that were competitive with current photovoltaic technology. The results found that for low grade solar heat in the range of 80-125° C, the best system (efficiency up to 14%) consisted of a regular four stage Rankine cycle with iso-butane as the working fluid. If input temperature of 100-150° C can be reached, a closed loop pre-heater design with n-Pentane can produce very effective systems (15-21%). Methanol and ethanol seem best suited for higher temperature applications were the possibility of co-generation could be explored. Residential solar thermal electricity generation is a feasibly technology and as solar collects and micro expanders develop more, it can become a leader in renewable energy.
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