Abstract

This paper describes a terrestrial thermocline storage system comprised of inexpensive rock, gravel, and/or sand-like materials to store high-temperature heat for days to months. The present system seeks to overcome past challenges of thermocline storage (cost and performance) by utilizing a confined radial-based thermocline storage system that can better control the flow and temperature distribution in a bed of porous materials with one or more layers or zones of different particle sizes, materials, and injection/extraction wells. Air is used as the heat-transfer fluid, and the storage bed can be heated or “trickle charged” by flowing hot air through multiple wells during periods of low electricity demand using electrical heating or heat from a solar thermal plant. This terrestrial-based storage system can provide low-cost, large-capacity energy storage for both high- (∼400–800°C) and low- (∼100–400°C) temperature applications. Bench-scale experiments were conducted, and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations were performed to verify models and improve understanding of relevant features and processes that impact the performance of the radial thermocline storage system. Sensitivity studies were performed using the CFD model to investigate the impact of the air flow rate, porosity, particle thermal conductivity, and air-to-particle heat-transfer coefficient on temperature profiles. A preliminary technoeconomic analysis was also performed to estimate the levelized cost of storage for different storage durations and discharging scenarios.

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