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RESEARCH PAPERS

Solar Cooling Economic Considerations: Centralized Versus Decentralized Options

[+] Author and Article Information
Xavier García Casals

Departamento de Fluidos y Calor, Universidad Pontificia Comillas—ICAI C/Alberto Aguilera, 25, 28015 Madrid, Spainxavi@dfc.icai.upco.es

J. Sol. Energy Eng 128(2), 231-236 (Jul 19, 2005) (6 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2189871 History: Received January 20, 2005; Revised July 19, 2005

In Spain, as in other Mediterranean and low-latitude countries, cooling loads of the same order of magnitude or even higher than heating loads coexist with high solar radiation resources. Cooling loads in most of these countries have, thus far, not been completely incorporated into the building sector energy demand because they arise after that DHW (domestic hot water) and heating loads have been satisfied and the living standard of the population reaches a given threshold. The increasing comfort demand in the cooling season from a population living in buildings that were developed without taking into account these considerations are bringing about a strong increase in the installation of domestic vapor compression air conditioning units, aimed to partially fulfil the thermal comfort demand in few rooms of these dwellings. This has a significant impact on the environment and the electricity distribution system, in a moment when strong environmental constraints are being imposed on the energy system to fulfil international agreements as the Kyoto protocol. Solar absorption cooling emerges as an interesting alternative to satisfy this growing energy demand for cooling applications with synergies with solar energy use for heating and DHW purposes. However, solar absorption cooling has been there already, for decades, without having a significant development, and still today presents some limitations that prevent its widespread application. Other solar cooling alternatives, such as the use of commercial vapor compression air conditioning equipment fed with electricity from centralized solar power plants could, in short, become available in these countries. In this paper, based on the experienced gained with the simulation of the most recent installations of absorption cooling installations in Spain, we perform a cost comparison between decentralized and centralized solar cooling options to give some insight into the development requirements and possibilities from both solar cooling options.

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Copyright © 2006 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figures

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 1

Levelized cooling costs (LCC) as function of solar fraction for a decentralized solar absorption system with single effect absorption chiller and flat plate collectors; and for centralized solar cooling based on the use of vapor compression air conditioning equipment (conventional COP=3 and high efficiency COP=5) and electricity from a central solar thermal power plant (STPP). For the STPP, a LEC=25c€∕kWhe and a 15% incremental cost for the user have been considered.

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 2

Levelized cooling costs and required solar field collector area for solar absorption cooling installations with different technologies. At low solar fractions, all designs present similar performances; FPC=flat plate collectors, ETC=evacuated tube collectors, SE=single effect absorption machine, and DE=double effect absorption machine. Building with 200m2 useful area.

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 3

Effect of absorption system investment costs on the LCC from a solar absorption cooling installation with a single effect absorption chiller and flat plate collectors. Results are presented for installations designed with two different solar multiples in the cooling season. For comparison, results are also shown for the centralized option implementing local vapor compression air conditioning equipment fed with electricity generated in solar thermal power plants (STPP), considering a LEC=25c€∕kWhe and a 15% increase of electricity costs for the final user.

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 4

Levelized cooling costs (LCC) of the centralized solar cooling option based on local vapor compression air conditioning equipment (actual technology COP=3 and efficient technology COP=5) as a function of levelized electricity costs (LEC) from the solar thermal power plant (STPP). For comparison purposes, the LCC of a decentralized solar absorption cooling installation with single effect absorption chiller and flat plate collectors designed with SM=1 is also presented.

Grahic Jump Location
Figure 5

Levelized cooling costs (LCC) of decentralized solar absorption cooling installations with single effect absorption chiller and flat collectors, designed with different cooling solar multiples, as a function of cooling fraction; that is, the fraction of the useful solar energy output used for the cooling application, being the rest used for other applications (DHW, heating, etc.). For comparison purposes, the LCC of centralized options based in vapor compression air conditioning equipment (current technology COP=3 and high efficiency COP=5) fed with electricity at LEC=25c€∕kWhe from a central solar thermal power plant (STPP) are also presented.

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