Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plants utilize oil, molten salt or steam as the heat transfer fluid (HTF) to transfer solar energy to the power block. These fluids have properties that limit plant performance; for example, the synthetic oil and molten salt have upper temperature limits of approximately 390°C and 565°C, respectively. While direct steam generation has been tested, it requires complex controls and has limited options for integration of thermal energy storage. Use of carbon dioxide as the HTF and power cycle working fluid offers the potential to increase thermal cycle efficiency while maintaining simplicity of operation and thermal storage options.
Supercritical CO2 (s-CO2) operated in a closed-loop recompression Brayton cycle offers the potential of higher cycle efficiency versus superheated or supercritical steam cycles at temperatures relevant for CSP applications. Brayton-cycle systems using s-CO2 have smaller weight and volume, lower thermal mass, and less complex power blocks versus Rankine cycles due to the higher density of the fluid and simpler cycle design. Many s-CO2 Brayton power cycle configurations have been proposed and studied for nuclear applications; the most promising candidates include recompression, precompression, and partial cooling cycles.
Three factors are important for incorporating s-CO2 into CSP plants: superior performance vs. steam Rankine cycles, ability to integrate thermal energy storage, and dry-cooling. This paper will present air-cooled s-CO2 cycle configurations specifically selected for a CSP application. The systems will consider 10-MW power blocks that are tower-mounted with an s-CO2 HTF and 100-MW, ground-mounted s-CO2 power blocks designed to receive molten salt HTF from a power tower.