Chapter 17

Solar Thermal Power Systems

Conversion of solar to mechanical and electrical energy has been the objective of experiments for over a century. In 1872, Mouchot exhibited a steam-powered printing press at the Paris Exposition, in 1902 the Pasadena Ostrich Farm system was exhibited, and in 1913 a solar-operated irrigation plant started its brief period of operation at Meadi, Egypt. These and other developments utilized concentrating collectors to supply steam to heat engines. An interesting historical review of these experiments is provided by Jordan and Ibele (1956). In May of 2002 the ASME Journal of Solar Energy Engineering published a special issue on solar thermal power.

Much of the early attention to solar thermal-mechanical systems was for small-scale applications, with outputs ranging up to 100 kW, and most of them were designed for water pumping. In the past four decades, the possibilities of operating vapor compression air conditioners have been studied analytically and experimentally. Since 1985 there have been several large-scale power systems (up to 80 MW) constructed and operated. Several of these will be noted in this chapter.

The processes for conversion of solar to mechanical and electrical energy by thermal means are fundamentally similar to other thermal processes, and the principles treated earlier on radiation, materials, collectors, storage, and systems form the basis of estimating the performance of solar thermal power systems. In addition, a new ...

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