Date of Graduation

12-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MSCE)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Civil Engineering

Advisor

Panneer Selvam

Committee Member

Micah Hale

Second Committee Member

Ernest Heymsfield

Abstract

Increasing global energy demands and diminishing fossil fuel resources have raised increased interest in harvesting renewable energy resources. Solar energy is a promising candidate, as sufficient irradiance is incident to the Earth to supply the energy demands of all of its inhabitants. At the utility scale, concentrating solar power (CSP) plants provide the most cost-efficient method of harnessing solar energy for conversion to electrical energy. A major roadblock to the large-scale implementation of CSP plants is the lack of thermal energy storage (TES) that would allow the continued production of electricity during the absence of constant irradiance. Sensible heat TES has been suggested as the most viable form of TES for CSP plants. Two-tank fluid TES systems have been incorporated at several CSP plants, significantly enhancing the performance of the plants. A single-tank thermocline TES system, requiring a reduced liquid media volume, has been suggested as a cost-reducing alternative. Unfortunately, the packed-aggregate bed of such TES system introduces the issue of thermal ratcheting and rupture of the tank's walls. To address this issue, it has been suggested that structured concrete be used in place of the aggregate bed. Potential concrete mix designs have been developed and tested for this application. Finite-difference-based numeric models are used to study the performance of packed-bed and structured concrete thermocline TES systems. Optimized models are developed for both thermocline configurations. The packed-bed thermocline model is used to determine whether or not assuming constant fluid properties over a temperature range is an acceptable assumption. A procedure is developed by which the cost of two-tank and single-tank thermocline TES systems in the capacity range of 100-3000 MWhe can be calculated. System Advisory Model is used to perform life-cycle cost and performance analysis of a central receiver plant incorporating four TES scenarios: no TES, two-tank TES, packed-bed thermocline TES, and structured concrete thermocline TES. Conclusions are drawn as to which form of TES provides the most viable option. Finally, concrete specimens cast from the aforementioned mix designs are tested in the presence of molten solar salt, and their applicability as structured filler material is assessed.

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