Development of Molten Salt Energy Storage

Over the past couple of years, energy storage technology has significantly evolved to meet engineering demand and political regulations. This wasn’t initially looked as a desirable investment due to the high production cost, however over time, exploration of such technology by bigger companies has driven down the manufacturing cost and generated more demand. With occurrences such as rapid capital raise of smaller start-up companies, to the acquisition of Solar City by Tesla, the market of energy storage is predicted to continue growing. The technology allows for collection of energy produced to be used at a later time. Energy storage systems have wide technology variation to manage power supply – from thermal, compressed air to everyday batteries.

blog-post-2-image-1Molten Salt Usage

The usage of molten salt in thermal energy storage applications has become more common. In commercial solar energy storage, molten salt (from potassium nitrate, lithium nitrate and more) is used in conjunction with concentrated solar energy for power generation. Molten salts are able to absorb and keep heat energy transferred from the fluid mediator, then to transfer it again when it’s needed. In the liquid state, molten salt has a similar state to water. It also has the capacity to retain temperatures of  1000 Fahrenheit. Though efficiency is known to be lower than other storage media such as batteries, (70% vs 90%), the main advantage of the usage of molten salt is lower costs which allows the technology to be implemented in a higher volume production.

How Molten Salt Energy Storage Works

Using solar energy as the main source of energy, heliostats (mirrors used to track sun/solar heat) are used to reflect the solar radiation into an energy receiver at the power plant. Molten salt then is used to collect this heat energy from the concentrated pool. The molten salt will later be stored. When power is needed, hot molten salt is transferred to a HX (or steam generator) to produce steam at a high pressure and temperature. The steam then will be used for electricity generation as the live steam in a conventional steam power plant. After exiting the generator, molten salt will then be transferred back to the thermal storage tank to again absorb energy.

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Working with Geothermal Heat Pumps

A geothermal heat pump utilizes earth’s thermal energy as a way to manipulate temperature. This is seemingly attractive toward HVAC utilization due to the relatively high efficiency as well as economic benefit. Temperature fluctuations below ground are relatively low as earth absorbs solar energy all year round and insulates the heat underground. Taking advantage of this event, geothermal energy heat pump application for residential and commercial building uses the “underground” as a heat source/sink.

geothermal heat pumps
Source: http://tidewatermechanical.com/geothermal-heat-pumps/

How does geothermal heat pump work?

A heat pump system mainly consists of a heat-pump unit, a pipeline loop functioning as a heat exchanger for a desired area (it can be horizontal, vertical or installed to an aquatic medium), and a duct – to deliver the controlled temperature flow to the consumer.

Fluid is pumped through an installed pipeline loop which transfers heat based on the season. During the hotter season (summer), heat will be absorbed from the air in the building, transferred into the ground and then cooler air will be circulated to the designated area. The contrary happens during the winter. In colder months, heat will be transferred into the fluid from the ground and collected heat will be distributed.

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The Economic Optimization of Renewable Energy

Global warming has been a very popular topic these days. With up-trend of clean technology and realization that strict climate policy should be implemented, demand of renewable energy sky-rocketed as conservative plants popularity falls. Number of coal power plants have significantly dropped since its peak era, being known as the largest pollutant contributor as it produces nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide, the technology is valued less due to its impact on nature. Renewable energy comes from many sources: hydropower, wind power, geothermal energy, bio energy and many more. The ability to replenish and having no limit in usage and applications make renewable energy implementations seems attractive. Aside from that, they also produce low emission, sounds like a win-win solution for everyone. Theoretically, with the usage of renewable energy, human-kind should be able to meet their energy need with minimal environmental damage. With growth rate ranging from 10% to 60% annually, renewable energy are getting cheaper through the technology improvements as well as market competition. In the end, the main goal is still to generate profit, though these days taking impact on nature into the equation is just as important. Since the technology is relatively new, capital cost still considerable higher compared to some cases with more traditional (–and naturally harmful) implementations. So the question is: how to maximize the economic potential of a renewable energy power generation plant?

The Economic Optimization of Renewable Energy

Living up to the maximum potential of any power generation plant starts in the design process. Few examples for solar power plant: designers should take into consideration type and quality of panels, it’s important to see the economic-efficiency tradeoff before jumping into investment; looking into the power conversion is also one of the most important steps, one should take into consideration that it would be worthless to produce more energy than the capacity that are able to be transferred and put to use, though too low energy generation would mean less gross income.

Another example, for a geothermal power plant, many studies have shown that boundary conditions on each components play a big role in determining the plant’s capacity and efficiency. High efficiency is definitely desired to optimize the potential of a power plant and minimized the energy loss. Though, should also be compared to the economic sacrifice; regardless of how good the technology is, if it doesn’t make any economic profit, it would not make sense for one to invest in such technology. Low capital cost but high operating expenses would hurt the economic feasibility in the long run, whereas high capital cost and low operating expense could still be risky since that would mean a higher lump sum of investment upfront, which might or may not breakeven nor profitable depending on the fluctuation of energy market.

Modern technology allows investors and the engineering team to make this prediction based on models developed by the experts. SoftInWay just recently launched our economic module, check out AxCYCLE to optimize your power plant!

Reference:

[1] Optimal design of geothermal power plants 

[2] Strategies in tower solar power plant optimization

Variable Speed Compressor for HVAC and Refrigeration.

Even though energy consumption for HVAC and refrigeration system is considerably smaller than most technology applications, energy savings is still desired for many reasons: cleaner technology, saving cost, fuel economy and many more. Improvements in insulation, compressor efficiency and optimization of the cycle can be implemented to achieve better performance. Installation of variable speed drives is one way to optimize the potential of HVAC system.

Refrigeration

Although has been implemented to various HVAC components, variable-speed drive is considerably still one of the “newer” advancements in the compressor industry. These devices are able to precisely control the motor speed and trim/balance systems. Variable speed control compressor gives end-users the comfort of matching the speed to what is needed at the time; giving precise temperature control with less cycling and longer run times. With longer run times, the technology also helps to remove moisture and relative humidity during the summer; or on the other hand during the winter by increasing the speed of compressor, system are able to deliver hotter air.

Compared to fixed compressor, where there are only two options for end-users to set: maximum capacity or completely off; variable speed drives gives the end-user an ability to adjust power output to compressor. The technology also comes with the benefit of less energy wasted from off and on cycle, precise load matching and low amp gradual compressor motor startup; therefore, improving the efficiency on certain conditions.

Compressor

Coupling variable speed drives to centrifugal compressor alter the behavior of the component. Although, not always requiring smaller energy (i.e at or near full load) compared to fixed speed compressor, installation of VSD could really benefit the users in terms of power consumption (i.e at part lift), to optimize even further implementation of both compressor types would benefit both conditions.

Want to learn more? Design your most efficient compressor using AxSTREAM

Reference:

Variable Speed Air Compressor

Reduction In Power Consumption Of Household Refrigerators By Using Variable Speed Compressors

The Impact of Variable-Speed Drives on HVAC Components

Heat pump and refrigeration cycle

 

Turbo pump design parameters for Liquid Propulsion

turbo3aLiquid propellant rocket is known as the most common traditional rocket design. Although the first design was launched back in 1926, liquid propellant rocket remains a popular technology which space exploration companies and institutions study for further improvement.

The implementation of this particular technology is based on a simple idea: fuel and oxidizer are fed through a combustion chamber where both liquids will met and burned to produce launching energy. In order to inject propellant to combustion chamber, a turbo-pump is used to create required pressure . The turbo-pump design and operating parameters contribute to the optimization of both turbo-pump and engine system performance. The pump needs to be designed to avoid cavitation while operates pushing the liquid to combustion chamber.

There are three different cycles which are often used in liquid propellant rocket: the staged combustion, expander and gas generator cycle. Configuration of the turbo-pump strongly relies on the cycle and engine requirements –thus the best design must be selected from options available for the particular cycle’s optimal parameters. For example for staged combustion cycle, where turbine flows is in series with thrust chamber, the application allows high power turbo-pumps; which means high expansion ratio nozzles can be used at low altitude for better performance. Whereas, for implementation of gas-generator cycle, turbine flows are linked in parallel to thrust chamber, consequently, gas generator cycle turbine does not have to work the injection process from exhaust to combustion chamber, thus simplified the design and allows lighter weight to be implemented.

Some parameters are interdependent when it comes to designing a turbo-pump, i.e: turbo-pump cycle efficiency, pump specific needs, pump efficiencies, NPSH, overall performance, etc. Often in practice, pump characteristics will determine the maximum shaft speed at which a unit can operate. Once it’s determined turbine type, arrangements, and else can be selected. Another thing that must be taken into consideration while designing a turbo-pump is how it affect the overall payloads.

Schematic of a pump-fed liquid rocket
Schematic of a pump-fed liquid rocket

Turbo-pump design affect payload in different ways:

  1. Component weight
  2. Inlet suction pressure. As suction pressure goes up, the tank and pressurization system weight increased and reduce the payload.
  3. Gas flowrate, since increase in flowrate decrease the allowable-stage burnout weight, which would decrease payload weight.

All those has to be taken into consideration while trying to select an optimal design of turbo-pump, since it crucially affects overall performance of the engine.

Want to learn more how to design a turbo-pump? Check out AxSTREAM as your design, analysis and optimization tool!

 

References:
Turbopumps for Liquid Rocket Engines
Design of Liquid-Propellant Rocket Engines
Principal of Operation – Liquid-propellant rocket
Staged combustion cycle
Gas-generator cycle

 

Explaining the Binary Power Cycle

Geothermal energy is known to be a reliable and sustainable energy source. As the world gives more attention to the state of the environment, people lean towards using more energy sources which have little to no impact on nature. Where it is true that currently no other energy source can outperform fossil fuel due to its energy concentration, geothermal energy is a good prospect as a temporary substitute until a better form of energy supply is found.

There are two types of geothermal power sources; one is known as the steam plant and the other is the Binary cycle. Binary cycles have the conceptual objectives of: high efficiency — minimizing losses; low cost to optimize component design; and critical choice of working fluid. This particular type of cycle allows cooler geothermal supply to be used, which has a huge benefit since lower temperature resources are much more common in nature.

blog - binary power1blog - binary power2

 

 

 

 

 

 

The way a binary cycle works can be explained using the diagram shown above. Since the temperature of geothermal source is not high enough to produce steam, hot water is fed into a heat exchanger. From there, secondary liquid with lower boiling water than water i.e. isobutane, absorbs the heat generated. As the steam of secondary liquid moves the turbine, electricity will then be produced. This whole process repeats in a cycle since the secondary fluid will then condense back to its liquid state and being used for the same process.

From the process described above, it can be seen that binary cycle is a self-contained cycle — ‘nothing’ goes to waste. This fact leads to the potential of having low producing cost energy source from binary power cycle. That being said, due to the lower temperature, the conversion efficiency of the geothermal heat is also considerably low. Consequently, Carnot efficiency of such process is lower than most power cycles. Large amount of heat is required to operate a binary cycle, leading to a better and larger equipment. Not only that since a bigger amount of heat energy has to be let out to the environment during the cycle, a sufficient cooling system must be installed. Although the production cost is found to be lower, the investment cost for installation would be very expensive. Then, the main question to this particular technology implementation would be how to improve the quality of production and economic feasibility?

First, one of the main aspect of binary power cycle is to overcome water imperfection as a main fluid. Consequently choosing optimal working fluid is a very essential step. Characteristic of optimal working fluids would include a high critical temperature and maximum pressure, lower triple-point temperature, sufficient condenser pressure, high vaporization enthalpy, and other properties.

Second, it was studied on multiple different events that well-optimized ORCs perform better than Kalina cycles. The type of components chosen in the cycle also affect the cycle performance quite substantially, i.e plate heat exchanger was found to perform better in an ORC cycle in the geothermal binary application compared to shell-and-tube. Addition of recuperator or turbine bleeding also have the potency to improve the overall performance of a binary cycle plant. It is important to model multiple thermodynamic cycle to make sure that the chosen one is the most optimized based on the boundary conditions. While designing ranges of thermodynamic cycles, it is common that the cycle is modeled based on ideal assumptions. For binary cycle in geothermal application, plant efficiency would be the most important parameter. In order to achieve a desired plant efficiency, both cycle efficiency and plant effectiveness should be maximized.

Additionally, pinch-point-temperature between condenser and heat exchanger is a substantial aspect to pay attention to, even the smallest change of in temperature is considered a significant change. Thus, including this parameter is a very important aspect.

This particular cycle has many potentials which haven’t been explored. Enhance the advantages of your binary power cycle using our thermodynamic tool, AxCYCLE.

Ref:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binary_cycle
http://www.technologystudent.com/energy1/geo3.htm
http://www.researchgate.net/publication/229148932_Optimized_geothermal_binary_power_cycles

Analyzing Thermal Power Generation Efficiency

Figure 1 - Thermal Power Plant Layout
Figure 1 – Thermal Power Plant Layout

Steam turbine power generating plants, also known as Thermal Power stations, are the most conventional type of electricity production today. Most of today’s electricity power is generated though this technology. Naturally, as implied by its name, a thermal power station uses steam power as its prime mover to convert energy in coal, or other fossil fuel, by heating water to steam and utilizing Rankine cycle principles to generate heat and electricity.

The basic theory of thermal power generation is pretty straight forward: in a simple thermodynamic cycle, saturated liquid water is heated to steam. The working fluid will then pass through a steam turbine, where its energy is converted to mechanical work to run the generator and produce the electricity. Then fluid will be condensed to be recycled back in the heater. Just as simple as that, electricity power is generated from the cycle based on Rankine cycle principle.

The utilization of thermal power station comes with the advantage of economical initial and generation cost, easy maintenance and simple cycle operation in practice. That being said, there are also couple major drawbacks associated to the technology, primarily, low overall efficiency –due to the nature of Rankine cycle’s characteristic of thermal efficiency and environmental issues.

There are many scientific reasoning behind thermal power generation’s low efficiency. It is important to know the reasons why to engage in a better technology. These are the primary reasons:

  • During the combustion of carbon, effective conversion more or less is found to be 90%, this happen primarily due to limitation of heat transfer where some heat are lost into the atmosphere. Coal also contains moisture that vaporizes and take the latent heat from combustions.
  • The thermodynamic step, working on Rankine cycle principle, is where 50% (or more) efficiency is consumed. When the steam is condensed for re-use, latent heat of condensation is lost in the cooling water, which decreases the energy input by a very significant magnitude. Losses can also happen in the blades and other components. The Rankine cycle efficiency is determined by the maximum temperature of steam that can be transferred through the turbine, which means the efficiency is also constrained by the temperature associated with the cycle. Two other main factors that affect the thermal efficiency of power plants are the pressure of steam entering the turbine and the pressure in the condenser. That being said, a cycle with supercritical pressure and high temperature usually results to a higher efficiency.
  • During a conversion of mechanical to electrical, some efficiency loss happens in the generator and transformer. A small percentage of energy generated will then be used for internal consumption.

Knowing the causes of low efficiency leads us to the next question: What are the steps to optimize our thermal power plant efficiency?

  • Since thermal efficiency depends on temperature and pressure, it can be improved by using high pressure and temperature steam, though obviously it will be limited based on the boundary conditions of the operating system. A lower pressure can also be set in the condenser.
  • Improvement could also be implemented by the application of reheating steam technology between turbine stages.
  • Waste heat recovery optimization, capture excess heat for reuse, and install insulation to reduce any losses.
  • Upgrading major systems/components of thermodynamic cycles and renewing materials to reduce natural losses in efficiency due to age.
  • Improve efficiency monitoring system to enable instant detection of losses as well as analyzing efficiency based on real data.

These are just some ways that could be utilized to optimize power generation efficiency, indeed each of the steps come with their own specific obstacles of implementation, but there are infinite ways that can be explored to advance the technology.

Learn more about maximizing your power plant productivity through our webinars and explore our tools to help with your efficiency optimization for power generation and component design!

Sources:
http://www.learnengineering.org/2013/01/thermal-power-plant-working.html

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