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Solar Energy 98 (2013) 3441

Strategies for solar updraft tower power plants control subject

to adverse solar radiance conditions
Marco Aurelio dos Santos Bernardes a,, Xinping Zhou b,1
Centro Universitario UNA, Rua Guajajaras, 175, Centro, CEP 30180-100 Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil
Department of Mechanics, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430074, China

Available online 5 July 2013

Communicated by: Associate Editor Yogi Goswami


This paper evaluates the Solar Chimney Power Plant performance subject to adverse solar radiance conditions. For that, numerical
simulations are performed to estimate the optimal ratio of the turbine pressure drop to the total pressure potential (x-factor) as an inde-
pendent control variable. The results show that x-factor values remain around 0.8 for periods with sucient heat gain from sun or
ground. Otherwise, x-factor values have a tendency to drop to zero. In winter, due to lower system heat gains, this trend is more
2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Solar chimney power plant; Power production; Power output control

1. Introduction operational strategy during day and night. Furthermore,

SCPP can naturally make use of the ground to storage
The solar chimney power plant SCPP working as an thermal energy. This storage eect inuences also the SCPP
indirect solar conversion technology, consists of a collector performance. In this way, it is important to evaluate the
(a greenhouse heating the air), a chimney (a tall cylinder link- SCPP performance subject to adverse solar radiance condi-
ing the warm air adjacent to the surface and the cold air in tions, as proposed in this work.
the high) and the generator-turbine system (changing the Fundamentally, the optimum combination of Dpturb and
air ow kinetic energy into electrical energy), as shown in Dp returns the maximum power. There will be no ow if the
Fig. 1. The literature is extensive, and that referred to here turbine pressure drop increases reaching the pressure
is by no means exhaustive. Reference (Bernardes, 2010) potential. Otherwise, if the turbine pressure drop reduces
recently reviewed most of the outstanding issues at that time. to zero and the ow is maximum limited only by the sys-
Many eorts have been made to investigate the SCPP tem frictional losses the power production will be zero.
operational performance. The SCPP operation faces two Reference (Bernardes and von Backstrom, 2010) pro-
key issues, namely (1) the solar radiation unsteadiness sup- posed the ratio of the turbine pressure drop to the total
ply and (2) the local demand requirements. Both issues can pressure potential as an operational parameter which has
vary instantaneously, (industrial, commercial and residen- been widely used by the following equation:
tial demands, weather uctuations, etc.) and aect the Dpturb
x 1
Corresponding author. Tel.: +55 3182828778.
E-mail addresses: (M.A.d.S. Bernardes), xpzhou
Values of x are controversy in the literature, as shown in (X. Zhou). Table 1. Reference (Bernardes and von Backstrom, 2010b)
Corresponding author. evaluate the SCPP performance considering heat transfer

0038-092X/$ - see front matter 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
M.A.d.S. Bernardes, X. Zhou / Solar Energy 98 (2013) 3441 35


Variables Description Pr Prandtl number: cpl/k ()

Ac ow area (m2) q heat ux (W/m2)
cp specic heat capacity (J/kg K) qgh heat ux between the ground and the ow under
dh hydraulic diameter (m) collector roof (W/m2)
f Darcy friction factor () qra heat ux between the roof and the ambient (W/
Fbw force regarding pressure drop due to chimney m 2)
bracing wheel (N) qrh heat ux between the roof and the ow under
Fsupports force regarding pressure drop due to collector collector roof (W/m2)
roof supports (N) R gas constant (J/kg K)
g gravitational acceleration (9.8 m/s2) r radial coordinate (m)
H height (m) Ra Rayleigh number: gb(Ts  T1)x3/ma ()
h enthalpy (J/kg) Re Reynolds number: qVdh/l ()
hgh heat transfer coecient ground to ow T temperature (K)
Pretorius (W/m2 K) u radial velocity component (m/s)
hh heat transfer coecient roof/ground to ow vc vertical velocity component (m/s)
Bernardes (W/m2 K) vw wind velocity (m/s)
hra heat transfer coecient roof to ambient (W/ z vertical coordinate (m)
m2 K)
hrh heat transfer coecient roof to ow Pretorius Greek
(W/m2 K) h angle (radians)
k thermal conductivity (W/m K) l dynamic viscosity (Pa s)
m_ mass ow rate (kg/s) m kinematic viscosity (m2/s)
Nu overall Nusselt number: hdh/k () q density (kg/m3)
Nuf Nusselt number forced convection () qc air density in the chimney (kg/m3)
Nuf,lam laminar Nusselt number forced convection () s shear stress (Pa)
Nuf,turb turbulent Nusselt number forced convection () sc shear stress in the chimney (Pa)
Nun Nusselt number natural convection () sg shear stress at the ground (Pa)
p pressure (Pa) sr shear stress at the roof (Pa)

coecients introduced by Pretorius (2004) and Bernardes respectively. All those mentioned studies refer to a constant
et al. (2003), both subject to dierent power control strat- x-value during day and night. However, in order to pro-
egies. They concluded that the optimum ratio of turbine duce the maximum power, it is necessary to evaluate the
pressure drop to pressure potential varies during the whole SCPP performance instantaneously taking into account,
day and it is very dependent of the heat transfer coecients for instance, the optimal x-value for eventual weather vari-
in the collector. In comparison with previous works, higher ations. In this way, the present work will address this issue
x-values of around 0.9 and 0.8 were found for the scheme by numerical simulations looking for the adequate control
employed by Bernardes et al. (2003a) and Pretorius (2004), strategy (best x-value) for some predened solar radiation
The total pressure potential comprises the total available
pressure potential less losses due to friction and drag in col-
lector and chimney. Hence it is important to measure in
any case the pressure at the collector and chimney inlets
and outlets. To obtain the average total pressure in larger
ducts, traverse readings are widely recommended by mea-
surement and control instruments dealers, e.g. Dwyer
instruments Inc., FLUKE, Rockwell Controls Company,
TSI, etc. For that, a series of pressure readings must be
taken at points of equal area. A formal pattern of sensing
points across the duct cross section is recommended. In
round ducts like the chimney, velocity pressure readings
should be taken at centers of equal concentric areas. At
Fig. 1. SCPP working scheme. least 20 readings should be taken along two diameters. In
36 M.A.d.S. Bernardes, X. Zhou / Solar Energy 98 (2013) 3441

Fig. 2. Traverse on round and square duct areas.

Table 1 @
q vc 0 3
x-values found in literature. @z c
Source Value of
Momentum equation for the collector
Haaf et al. (1983), Lautenschlager et al. (1984), Mullett (1987), 2/3 @p F supports @v
 H sr sg qvH 4
and Schlaich (1995) @r rDh @r
Schlaich (1995) 0.82
Gannon (2002), Gannon and von Backstrom (2000), and 0.7 Momentum equation for the chimney
Hedderwick (2001)    
Schlaich et al. (2003) 0.8 @pc sc pd c F bw @vc
  q c g vc 5
Bernardes (2003) 0.97 @z Ac @z
Von Backstrom and Fluri (2006) 0.83
Energy equation for the collector
RT @ @
qrh qgh qvrH qvH cp T 6
r @r @r
nearly rectangular ducts like the collector, a minimum of
16 and a maximum of 64 readings are taken at centers of Energy equation for the chimney
equal rectangular areas. Fig. 2 shows recommended Pitot @ @
tube locations for traversing round and rectangular ducts. RT c q vc qc vc cpc T c qc vc gz 0 7
@z c @z
Such experimental arrangement could be tted together
with stabilizing spokes in chimney and with the collector According to (Pretorius et al., 2004), the sum of the con-
structural frame. tribution made by the wall friction, bracing wheel force,
axial momentum and transient momentum terms repre-
sented less than 1% of the magnitude of the gravity force
2. SCPP model and governing conservation equations term in the tower momentum equation and should not be
representative in this work. Eqs. (8)(10) represent the con-
The model illustrating the incompressible and viscous vective heat transfer correlations employed to calculate the
ow in SCPP can be described by the following set of heat ow in the collector. Reference (Bernardes et al., 2009)
Eqs. (2)(7). These equations are subject to assumptions give a more detailed explanation about these equations,
shown in Table 2. In addition, the radial velocity distri- describing their scopes of use (see Table 3).1
bution between the ground and the roof is essentially
fully developed shortly after the collector inlet. The col-  1=3 , !1=3
qT m lT m
lector roof height is kept inversely proportional to the h 0:2106 0:0026v 8
lgDT gDTcp k 2 q2
distance from the plant centre line for the purpose of
keep the average radial air speed constant along the vqcp
collector. h 3:87 0:0022 9
Continuity equation for the collector  
f =8Re  1000Pr k
h 1=2 2=3
1 @ 1 12:7f =8 Pr  1 h d
qvrH 0 2
r @r
Continuity equation for the chimney m mw for heat transfer between roof and ambient.
M.A.d.S. Bernardes, X. Zhou / Solar Energy 98 (2013) 3441 37

Table 2 Table 4
Relevant governing equations assumptions. Solar radiation patterns for the case studies.
Continuity equation  unsteady state conditions. Case Pattern for December and June
Base case Real meteorological data
 one-dimensional radial ow;
Case 01 No radiation afternoon
 unsteady state conditions;
Case 02 No radiation morning
 the roof of the collector is inclined from Case 03 No radiation between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
the outer boundary towards the tower;
Case 04 Radiation between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. only
 turbulent fully developed air ow between
Case 05 Pattern alternating between radiation and no radiation
two associated parallel plates. for each time step
Momentum equation Chimney:
 purely axial ow;
 surface stress constant over each control
volume; Meteorological data of Sishen, South Africa presented
 unsteady state conditions.
by Pretorius and Kroger (2006) for December and June
 static and dynamic pressure was take into provided the input for the base case simulations. In all
account; other cases, selected solar radiation values were intention-
Energy equation Collector:
ally set zero aiming the system response analysis.
 rise in collector height over the length of
the radial control was neglected;
3. Simulation
 kinetic energy, radial conduction and tran-
sient kinetic energy terms are negligible;
 unsteady state conditions; The numerical procedure behind this work is the same
 heat transfer in ground: transient heat introduced by Bernardes et al. (2003) where the mass ow,
conduction in semi-innite solid. air temperature, friction losses, heat transfer coecients,
pressure potential, drag losses, etc. are calculated for short
 kinetic energy, radial conduction and tran-
sient kinetic energy terms are negligible; collector and chimney sections trough an iterative process.
 unsteady state conditions. A detailed description can be found in this work.
 Temperature drop across turbine
4. Optimization procedure simulated cases

In this work a simple optimization procedure was

adopted to compute the x value for the maximum power
output. The computation for a time step starts from a
Table 3
low x0 value and the calculated value of the power output
Reference solar chimney power plant conguration.
is stored, for instance as Pprevious. Then, a new calculation
Collector Roof (Glass)
starts for the same time step making use of a x increment,
Emissivity of glass er = 0.87
Roughness of glass er = 0 m
Extinction coecient of glass Ce = 4 m-1
Refractive index of glass gr = 1,526
Thickness of glass tr = 0,004 m
Roof shape exponent b=1
Perimeter (inlet) height H2 = 5 m
Outer diameter d2 = 5000 m
Inner diameter d3 = 189 m
Type Sandstone
Emissivity (treated surface) eg = 0.9
Absorptivity (treated surface) ag = 0.9
Density qg = 2160 kg/m3
Specic heat cg = 710 J/kg K
Thermal conductivity kg = 1.83 W/m K
Roughness eg = 0.05 m
Height Hc = 1000 m
Inside diameter dc = 210 m
Turbo-generator eciency gtg = 80 %
Ambient conditions
Atmospheric pressure pa = 90000 N/m2
Wind speed at 10 m mw = 3 m/s Fig. 3. Optimal x values for the base case real meteorological data
38 M.A.d.S. Bernardes, X. Zhou / Solar Energy 98 (2013) 3441

Fig. 4. Optimal x values for the case 1 no radiation afternoon

Fig. 6. Optimal x values for the case 3 no radiation between 10:00 a.m.
and 2:00 p.m. December.

Fig. 5. Optimal x values for the case 2 no radiation morning

Fig. 7. Optimal x values for the case 4 radiation between 10:00 a.m. and
2:00 p.m. only December.

e.g. xnew = xprevious + Dx, a new value for the power output x values under 0.02 led to inconsistent results for all
P is thus calculated and compared with the previous one, simulations.
Pprevious. If the new value P is higher than the previous With the purpose of evaluate the system reaction for
one, Pprevious, the P computation proceed with higher x val- adverse solar radiation incidences, ve non-natural proles
ues in addition to Dx increment. Otherwise, if the new based on real available meteorological data (base case)
value P is lower than the previous one, then the program were set up as shown in the Table 4. In all cases, the
stops the calculation for the current time, the last P value months December and June were selected because they rep-
is took as the maximum power output for the current step resent summer and winter, the best and the worst incident
time and the program go forward to the next time step. By solar radiation cases respectively.
this means, it was possible to compute the maximum power
output for each time step over 24 h. A step increment 5. Results and discussion
Dx = 0.02 has shown to be adequate (signicant enough
to the proposed study and satisfactory to avoid larger com- Fig. 3 shows the results for the base case endorsing the
puter time-consuming) for all simulations. Indeed, starting work of Bernardes and von Backstrom (2010). According
M.A.d.S. Bernardes, X. Zhou / Solar Energy 98 (2013) 3441 39

Fig. 8. Optimal x values for the case 5 pattern alternating between Fig. 10. Optimal x values for the case 1 no radiation afternoon June.
radiation and no radiation for each time step December.

Fig. 11. Optimal x values for the case 2 no radiation morning June.
Fig. 9. Optimal x values for the base case real meteorological data
Considering unfavourable solar radiation in June (Fig. 9
to their analysis, x-factor values remain approximately 0.8 through Fig. 14), the SCPP operation requires a special
along the entire day for the heat transfer coecients control strategy for long periods without heat input to sys-
employed here. tem. Even considering well distributed solar radiation
Roughly said, for long periods without energy input along the proposed base case (Fig. 9), the system perfor-
from the sun or from the ground, the x-factor decreases mance requires lower x-factor values before the sunrise.
abruptly tending to null, as present in Fig. 3 through In this way, the SCPP operation permits the use of x-factor
Fig. 14. Instead of this, for short periods without heat gain, values around 0.8 for shorter periods of time, in compari-
x-factor values keep on around 0.8. son with December (Figs. 1014). In contrast with Decem-
Considering favourable solar radiation in December ber, comparing Figs. 6 and 12, the pattern without
(Figs. 3, 6 and 8), the thermal energy available from sun radiation between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. for June could
or ground make possible to keep the x-factor around 0.8, not keep x-factor values around 0.8 in this period of time.
except for long time periods without heat gain, as shown Concluding, SCPP performance subject to adverse solar
in Figs. 4, 5 and 7. radiance conditions could be analysed in this work. It was
40 M.A.d.S. Bernardes, X. Zhou / Solar Energy 98 (2013) 3441

Fig. 12. Optimal x values for the case 3 no radiation between 10:00 a.m. Fig. 14. Optimal x values for the case 5 pattern alternating between
and 2:00 p.m. June. radiation and no radiation for each time step June.

50908094) and Fundacao de Amparo a` Pesquisa do estado

de Minas Gerais FAPEMIG, Brazil for the nancial sup-
port that was made possible the publication of this work.


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