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Ashdin Publishing

Journal of Fundamentals of Renewable Energy and Applications

Vol. 2 (2012), Article ID R120308, 6 pages publishing

Research Article
4-E (Energy-Exergy-Environment-Economic) Analysis of Stand-Alone
Solar Thermal Power Plants and Solar-Coal Hybrid Power Plants
K. S. Reddy and Vikramaditya A. Devaraj
Heat Transfer and Thermal Power Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Madras,
Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600036, India
Address correspondence to K. S. Reddy,

Received 26 February 2012; Accepted 6 March 2012

Abstract This article deals with 4-E (energy-exergy- installed solar thermal power plants offers an opportunity
environment-economic) analysis of stand-alone solar to explore the use of solar energy in fossil-fuel power
thermal power plants (SASTPs) to establish their techno plants. It needs to be emphasized here that India has vast
economic feasibility in comparison with coal-fired (CFPs) coal reserves (about 58.6 billion tons) and hence coal-fired
and solar-coal hybrid power (SCHPs) plants. The analysis power plants (CFPs) dominate the source-wise installed
is carried out out for various plant capacities ranging 1 power generation capacity. India has expansive tracts of
50 MWe considering a 50 MWe coal-fired power cycle wasteland (approximately 1.58 million km2 ), out of which
as reference. The plant energy efficiency of SASTPs about 320,000 km2 (located in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and
without thermal energy storage is compared to CFPs. The Haryana) receive annual global solar radiation of 2100 to
inclusion of thermal storage in SASTPs reduces plant 2350 kWh/m2 [1]. Low plant capacity factors and high
energy and exergy efficiencies. The CO2 emission and ash investment costs appear to hinder the commercialization
production for a 50 MWe SCHP are less by 0.3 kg/kWh of stand-alone solar power generation systems. Taking
and 8400 tons/year, respectively, as compared to CFP. The these factors into consideration, the possibility of hybrid
levelized cost of electricity (LCoE) of a reference plant operation needs to be explored. This may result in higher
is Rs. 2.75/kWh whereas the LoE is higher by Rs. 10.59- average plant efficiencies and capacity factors. Coal has
11.30/kWh and Rs. 2.10/kWh, respectively, for SASTPs and been chosen (among fossil fuels) based on the vast proven
SCHPs. The plant energy and exergy efficiencies decrease coal reserves available in India [2]. Indias total power
by 3 to 4 percentage points for 1 MW power plants. generating capacity is of about 182.3 GWe of which 54.7%
comes from coal-based thermal power plants [4].
Keywords solar thermal; parabolic trough; indirect In this paper, a 50 MWe coal-fired power plant cycle is
heating; high ash coal; stand-alone; hybrid; thermal storage; taken as the base case. The analysis of SASTPs with and
CO2 emissions; levelized cost of electricity generation without thermal storage has been performed to establish
their techno-economic performance characteristics in Indian
1 Introduction climatic conditions. A similar analysis of SCHPs has also
Solar thermal power plants using parabolic trough technol- been performed. Only solar thermal power plants with coal-
ogy have been installed at various locations world-wide, fired back-up have been considered for hybrid operation.
with capacities up to 80 MWe . Of these, stand-alone solar The configuration and performance characteristics of power
thermal power plants (SASTPs) have been installed in plants vary with capacity. For this reason, power plants with
capacities up to 50 MWe . However, the higher capital costs capacities of 1 MWe , 5 MWe , and 20 MWe have also been
and relatively low plant efficiencies associated with SASTPs studied in this article.
reduce the viability of SASTPs. Furthermore, in India, the
availability of useful solar energy is limited by seasonal 2 Modeling and simulation of solar thermal power
variations, as well as widely varying climatic conditions. plants
The extensive operational experience available from The thermodynamic performance of power plants of four
different capacities is estimated by a component-wise mod-

This article is a part of a Special Issue on the International eling followed by a system simulation. A flow-sheet com-
Conference on Energy Security, Global Warming and Sustainable
Climate (SOLARIS 2012). puter program, Cycle-Tempo [5], is used for the study. It
is designed for the steady state thermodynamic (energy and
2 Journal of Fundamentals of Renewable Energy and Applications

Figure 1: Schematic of a 50 MWe CFP.

exergy) modeling and analysis of systems for the produc- (i) isentropic efficiency of recirculation pump is taken as
tion of electricity, heat, and refrigeration. The lower heating 80%;
value (LHV) of coal (dry basis) is 15.2 MJ/kg with a specific (j) for SASTPs with thermal storage, the auxiliary power
exergy of 17.3 MJ/kg [9]. It is assumed that parabolic trough consumption is assumed to be 12.5%. This is on account
technology is used for solar energy concentration, with indi- of the larger solar field required for SASTPs with ther-
rect heating. This requires an intermediary heat transfer fluid mal storage. For all other power plants, the auxiliary
like therminol, which has a maximum operating temperature power consumption is assumed to be 10%;
of less than 400 C. The turbine inlet steam temperature is (k) solar radiation is considered to be available (useful for
thus limited to less than 375 C, for all the power plants ana- power generation) for 8 hours/day for 300 days in a year;
lyzed. The study assumes the parabolic trough collector effi- (l) the annual average global direct solar irradiation is
ciency to be 60% [8, 10]. For SCHPs, it is assumed that the assumed to be 500 W/m2 .
required land area for solar collector field is already avail-
2.2 Simulation of thermal power plants
able. Hence, the land cost for the collector field is neglected.
The schematic of 50 MWe CFP is shown in Figure 1. The
2.1 Assumptions Rankine cycle parameters remain the same for SCHPs
and SASTPs. The Rankine cycle parameters are analyzed
The following assumptions are made to carry out the power and they are given in Table 1. For the condensate pump,
plant simulation: the isentropic and electro-mechanical efficiencies are
(a) ambient pressure and temperature of the reference envi- considered as 75% and 98%, respectively. The isentropic
ronment: 1.013 bar and 33 C (Indian climatic condi- and electro-mechanical efficiencies of the feed water
tions); pump are assumed to be 78% and 98%, respectively. The
(b) the relative humidity of the ambient air is taken as 60%; condenser pressure is set at 0.103 bar. Finally, the total
pressure drop in the water side of the steam generator is
(c) the chemical composition of the reference-environment
assumed to be 4.5 bar. The configuration of 50 MWe power
model constitutes (in mole fraction): N2 : 0.7562, O2 :
plant is based on the power plant cycle detailed in [7],
0.2030, H2 O: 0.0312, CO2 : 0.0003, and others: 0.0093;
and has been adapted to Indian climatic conditions. The
(d) the excess air is considered as 20%;
configuration for a 5 MWe power plant is based on the
(e) energy loss in coal-fired steam generator (due to the power plant proposed in [12]. Reheat is not used in this
combustibles in ash, radiation, and convection losses, configuration (or in the 1MWe power plant), due to the low
and unaccounted losses) is assumed as 1.5% of energy power plant capacity and turbine inlet pressure.
in the input fuel (coal) [9];
(f) ash constitutes 70% SiO2 and 30% Al2 O3 (by weight) 2.3 Performance parameters
and the bottom to fly ash ratio is assumed to be 20:80; 2.3.1 Energy and exergy parameters
(g) condenser pressure is assumed to be 10.3 kPa (Indian cli- The performance of coal-fired power plants is evaluated in
matic condition) and temperature gain of the condenser terms of gross and net energy efficiencies, and gross and net
cooling water is considered as 10 C; exergy efficiencies. The equations used to determine plant
(h) isentropic efficiency of fans is taken as 80%; efficiencies for CFPs are as follows:
Journal of Fundamentals of Renewable Energy and Applications 3

Net plant energy efficiency, Table 1: Main parameter values for Rankine cycles.
Power plant capacity (MWe ) 1 5 20 50
Net electricity output
= . (1) Turbines
Mass flow rate of coal HHV of coal
HP turbine inlet temperature ( C) 350 370 370 370
Net plant exergy efficiency, HP turbine inlet pressure (bar) 50 65 90 90
LP turbine inlet temperature ( C) 283.71 370 370
Net electricity output LP turbine inlet pressure (bar) 31 18.18 18.18
= . (2) HP turbine efficiency (%) 80 80 85.5 85.5
Mass flow rate of coal Specific exergy of coal
LP turbine efficiency (%) 80 89.5 89.5
For SASTPs, the input to the solar collector field is con- Extraction point pressures
sidered instead. For SCHPs the annual average energy and Extraction to HPH 2 (bar) 45.4
exergy efficiencies are reported based on the annual average Extraction to HPH 1 (bar) 36.17 20.6 20. 6
Extraction to deaerator (bar) 8.75 8.75 8.75 8.75
energy and exergy inputs. The energy efficiency of SCHP is
Extraction to LPH 3 (bar) 3.627
given as
Extraction to LPH 2 (bar) 2.702 1.224
 1 1 1 Extraction to LPH 1 (bar) 1.346 0.646 0.3461
8 SASTP + 16 CFP
SCHP = , (3) Pressure drop in extraction and reheating lines
24 Extraction line to HPH 2 (%) 2.5
Extraction line to HPH 1 (%) 3 3 3
where SASTP is the efficiency of the equivalent SASTP Reheating line (%) 11.75 11.75
(without thermal storage), and CFP is the efficiency of the Extraction line to deaerator (%) 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5
equivalent CFP. Extraction line to LPH 3 (%) 3
Exergy input through solar irradiation is specified as [6, Extraction line to LPH 2 (%) 3 3
11] Extraction line to LPH 1 (%) 3.5 3.5 3.5
Condenser pump
4 Ta Isentropic efficiency (%) 75 75 75 75
Exs = 1
(1 0.28 ln f ) Q s , (4)
3 Ts Electro-mechanical efficiency (%) 98 98 98 98
Feed water pump
where f is the dilution factor (1.3 105 ). Isentropic efficiency (%) 78 78 78 78
Electro-mechanical efficiency (%) 98 98 98 98
2.3.2 Environmental and economic parameters LP/HP closed feed water heaters
Terminal temperature difference ( C) 1.5 1.5 1.5
The coal-fired power plants are one of the major contributors Drain cooling approach ( C) 5.5 5.5 5.5
to CO2 emissions. Specific CO2 emission (kg of CO2 /kWh) Extraction to reheater.
is calculated to determine the impact on environment. Other
pollutants, such as SOx and NOx emissions, are neglected
because of the lower specific emissions values from pulver- The capital cost of a CFP (Rs./kWe) is expected to
ized coal-fired power plants [5]. increase as the plant capacity decreases, due to the higher
The levelized cost of electricity (LCoE) generation is land requirement (and other parameters) per MWe of power
used as an economic indicator. The procedure for calcula- generation. This has been accounted by expressing the
tion of annualized cost of electricity generation (ACoE) is capital cost in terms of the reference capital cost and a
modified to account for the escalation of annual fuel and scaling factor of 0.1, as follows:
operation and maintenance cost using a levelizing factor. Capital cost = (Capital cost of reference plant)
The levelizing factor, LF, is evaluated as   
Capacity (6)
   1+0.1 1 .
(1 + d )n 1 d(1 + d)n Reference capacity
LF = . (5)
d (1 + d )n (1 + d)n 1 Similarly, for SASTPs, the scaling factor is assumed to be
0.25. The simple payback period (SPP) has also been calcu-
The reference capital cost of a CFP is taken as Rs. 45,000/ lated for each power plant, as follows:
kWe , as against Rs. 2,45,000/kWe for a SASTP [3]. For
indirect heating, the specific investment cost of parabolic CC
SPP = . (7)
trough solar collector field is taken as Rs. 13,800/m2 [7]. ACoE Pnet
The solar field area is calculated assuming an annual average
direct irradiation of 500 W/m2 . The specific investment cost 2.4 Results and discussion
of 6 hours of thermal storage for SASTPs is assumed to be The energy efficiency of power plants is analyzed and
Rs. 39,500/kW, for all power plant capacities. is shown in Figure 2. It is observed that the net energy
4 Journal of Fundamentals of Renewable Energy and Applications

Figure 2: Variation of net energy efficiency with capacity. Figure 4: Variation of CO2 emission with capacity.

Figure 3: Variation of net exergy efficiency with capacity. Figure 5: Variation of ash production with capacity.

efficiency of the 50 MWe CFP (30.12%) is relatively found to be reduced by almost 11,000 tonnes annually,
low. This is due to the fact that the turbine inlet steam as shown in Figure 5. It is clear that the CO2 emission
temperature in coal-fired power plants is typically about and ash production (measured in tonnes/year) of CFPs and
510 C, as compared to 370 C for the reference cycle. It is SCHPs must increase with increase in capacity. However,
to be noted that the net energy efficiency of the SCHP is the CO2 emission measured in kg/kWh of CFPs and
closer to that of the CFP, due to the assumed availability of SCHPs is found to decrease with increase in capacity, as
useful solar energy for 8 hours per day for 300 days in a shown in Figure 4, due to increase in energy efficiency
year. Thus, the SCHP operates mainly in coal-fired mode. with capacity. The economic analysis is performed and it
The exergy efficiency of a 50 MWe SASTP is higher than shows that LCoE is significantly higher for SCHPs and
that of the equivalent CFP by about 1 percentage point SASTPs, in comparison to CFPs (see Figure 6). This is
(Figure 3). This is due to the lower exergy input through due to higher capital cost and lower plant capacity factor
solar irradiation. Also, due to the lowered turbine inlet steam associated with solar thermal power plants. Thus, the LCoE
temperatures, the irreversibility associated with coal-fired for a 50 MWe SASTP is Rs. 14.05/kWh, as compared to
boiler is higher. It is to be noted that the energy efficiency Rs. 2.75/kWh for the equivalent CFP. The use of 6 hours
variation with capacity is mainly due to the varying extent of thermal storage increases the plant capacity factor by
of regenerative feed water heating, as well as exclusion of about 0.19, reducing the LCoE by about 5%. The LCoE
reheat for lower capacities. of the 50 MWe SCHP is about 1.75 times that of the CFP.
The CO2 emission for the 50 MWe CFP is determined However, it is to be remembered that the LCoE of SCHPs
to be about 1.08 kg/kWh of power generation (Figure 4). has been calculated assuming availability of land for the
For the equivalent SCHP, the CO2 emission is reduced solar field. The calculation of simple payback period has
by about 33%. Ash production for the same SCHP is also been performed and depicted in Figure 7. For the
Journal of Fundamentals of Renewable Energy and Applications 5

Figure 6: Variation of LCoE with capacity. Figure 8: Variation of LCoE of a 50 MW SASTP (without
thermal storage) with various parameters.

3 Conclusions
The stand-alone solar thermal power plants (SASTPs)
are less preferable in comparison to solar-coal hybrid
power plants, due to the lower plant efficiencies and higher
levelized cost of electricity (LCoE) generation. Hybrid
operation, using coal back-up, increases the annual average
plant efficiency. Also, the LCoE is marginally reduced
by inclusion of thermal storage, and to a greater extent
by hybridization. The relatively lower LCoE and higher
capacity factor achievable in solar-coal hybrid power plants
(SCHPs) make the hybrid operation more attractive. This is
also reflected in the reduced simple payback period (SPP),
in comparison with SASTPs. SCHPs are also attractive,
due to reduced CO2 emission and annual ash production.
Figure 7: Variation of simple payback period with capacity.
The reduction in coal consumption by almost 11,000
tonnes annually for 50 MWe SCHP, with respect to the
reference 50 MWe CFP, the SPP is about 2.23 years. For equivalent CFP, makes hybrid operation as possible means
the equivalent SCHP, the SPP is increased to about 4.96 of reducing annual coal consumption for new and existing
years. The SPP of a SASTP (6.51 years for a capacity of CFPs. It is observed that the plant energy and exergy
50 MWe ) does not change significantly on inclusion of efficiencies of SASTPs are reduced to less than 20% for
thermal storage. The economic analysis shows a decrease capacities of 1 MWe and 5 MWe . This, along with the higher
in LCoE with increase in capacity, for CFPs, SCHPs, and LCoE, makes SASTPs more attractive at higher capacities
SASTPs. However, the lower capacity factors and higher (20 MWe and above). It is evident that SASTPs with thermal
capital costs make the variation of LCoE with capacity more storage experience higher capital costs and lower plant
significant for SASTPs. An initial increase in SPP of CFPs efficiencies. However, the reduction in LCoE makes inclu-
is seen in reducing plant capacity from 50 MWe to 20 MWe . sion of thermal storage essential. Also, from the sensitivity
This is due to the marginal increase in ACoE as compared analysis it can be inferred that reduction of capital cost leads
to the increase in capital cost. to the reduction of LCoE. If the investment cost associated
with thermal storage can be reduced, it may be possible to
2.5 Sensitivity analysis further improve the techno-economic feasibility of SASTPs.
In order to determine the effect of various parameters on
LCoE, a sensitivity analysis is carried out for a 50 MWe
SASTP without thermal storage. The variation of LCoE with ACoE annualised capital cost of electricity [Rs./kWh]
capital cost, discount rate, capacity factor, escalation rate, CC capital cost [Rs./kW]
and fixed O&M cost is shown in Figure 8. CFP coal-fired power plant
6 Journal of Fundamentals of Renewable Energy and Applications

d discount rate [%]

d equivalent discount rate [%]
Ex exergy efficiency
HPFWH high pressure feed water heater
LCoE levelized cost of electricity [Rs./kWh]
LF levelizing factor
LPFWH low pressure feed water heater
n plant life [yr]
Pnet net power generation [kWh]
Qs useful energy [W]
SASTP stand-alone solar thermal power plant
SCHP solar-coal hybrid power plant
SPP simple payback period [yr]
Ta ambient temperature [C]
Ts sun temperature [C]
energy efficiency

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