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Mathematical modeling and simulation of a standalone solar thermal Organic

Rankine Cycle (ORC) with a thermal storage

Conference Paper · December 2012

DOI: 10.2316/P.2012.785-048


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4 authors, including:

Sasiri Gamage A.T.D. Perera

University of Moratuwa École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne


Pubudu Kumarage
University of Moratuwa


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Proceedings of the IASTED International Conference
Engineering and Applied Science (EAS 2012)
December 27 - 29 , 2012 Colombo , Sri Lanka


Sasiri V.R. Gamage *, Hanthanan A.K. Madhushan, Amarasinghage T.D. Perera, Pubudu Kumarage
University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Moratuwa
Moratuwa, 10400, Sri Lanka

circumstances, Organic fluids can be used to replace

Mathematical modeling followed by a dynamic water in RCs in order to harness thermal energy [5].
simulation of an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) assisted
Mathematical modeling and experimental validation,
by solar thermal energy and thermal energy storage is
simulation and optimization of solar thermal ORC has
taken into consideration in this study for a standalone
become a rich area of study [6-10]. Design of solar
application. N-Pentane was taken as the working fluid of
collector is important when considering the overall
the cycle and three different Phase Change Materials
efficiency of the ORC since it becomes the thermal
(PCM) were taken as the thermal storage. Dynamic
source. Flat plate, evacuated type and compound
simulation is carried out taking hourly solar insolation at
parabolic collectors are taken into consideration in most
Hambanthota, a southeast location of Sri Lanka (06°07′ N
of the instances when it comes to low temperature ORC
81°07′ E). Results from the analysis depicts that seasonal
[11]. Use of low temperature non concentric solar
variation of solar energy potential is having strong impact
collectors may extract both diffuse and beam radiation
when coming up with the optimum collector area and
and reduce the cost of the system [5]. Heat losses of the
capacity of thermal storage.
solar collector field can be significantly reduced by
subdividing solar field into different temperature stages
KEY WORDS that consists of both concentric and non concentric
Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC), Solar Thermal Energy, collectors [12]. Optimum balance between concentric and
Thermal Energy Storage, Standalone Energy systems non concentric collectors has been taken into
consideration in Ref [5,13]. Therefore, design of collector
array and collector temperature need to be optimized
1. Introduction when developing Solar assisted ORC. However, flat plate
collectors are more suitable when considering Sri Lankan
Rural electrification and development in energy context compared to concentrated collectors due to low
infrastructure support economic growth. However, it is a clearness index.
challenging endeavour to extend the existing main grid When it comes to stand alone applications, seasonal
into certain areas in order to meet the electricity demand variation of solar irradiation plays a major role. Thermal
when considering present Sri Lankan context. Off-grid storage plays a major role in such instances especially for
energy systems become an attractive solution is such standalone applications. Simulation of the ORC with a
instances. Therefore several research groups have thermal storage by using a time series of solar irradiation
focussed on developing stand alone energy systems in data and Electricity Load Demand (ELD) becomes
order to meet-up this challenge considering the present Sri essential in order to assure higher power supply reliability
Lankan context [1–3]. This work evaluates the capability which is not taken into consideration in recent literature
of using solar thermal Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) with which is taken into discussion in this work.
a thermal storage for such standalone applications.
2. Mathematical Model for the Solar Assisted
Rankine cycle (RC) can be taken as the ORC with a Thermal Storage
thermodynamic cycle used to generate majority of the
present electricity demand. In most of the instances, This section illustrates the mathematical model developed
water is used as the working fluid of RC with high steam to simulate the system considering hourly varying solar
temperatures. However, thermal efficiency of RCs drops irradiation and Electricity Load Demand (ELD) which is
significantly when the temperature of steam drops below later used to derive the area for solar collector and
370oC [4]. Therefore, RC need higher initial capital capacity of thermal storage. The system consists of
investment with number of techno economical challenges evacuated type solar collectors, two thermal storage tanks
when generating electricity by using steam. In such and an ORC. The schematic diagram of the system is
given in Fig. 1.

DOI: 10.2316/P.2012.785-048 14
2.1 Mathematical Model for Solar Thermal Collector Gb,β and reflected solar radiation Gr,β were calculated using
(STC) Eq. (2) and (3). These values were used to find total solar
radiation on tilted surface Gβ using Eq. (4).
Area of the STC is selected in order to provide the ELD
throughout the year considering seasonal variation of cos θ
Gb,β = G − Gd ∙ cos (2)
solar irradiation and ELD since solar thermal energy θZ
becomes the energy source in this model. Both hourly
solar irradiation on the tilted STC and its performance Gr,β = 2
ρ ∙ G ∙ 1 − cos β (3)
should have to be modeled in order to find the energy
output from STCs. In order to achieve this, hourly global
Gβ = Gd,β + Gb,β + Gr,β (4)
irradiation on a horizontal plane G is taken (Fig. 2) and it
is used to calculate hourly diffuse fraction f using Climed-
2 model [14], which was later used to calculate diffuse where θ, θz and β denote angle of incidence for an
solar radiation Gd on horizontal plane according to Eq (1). arbitrarily inclined surface oriented toward the equator,
zenith angle and tilt angle of STC.
Gd = f ∙ G (1) Evacuated type STC is taken into consideration in
this work. The thermal efficiency of an evacuated type
Klucher model [15] was used to calculate diffuse solar STC (𝜂𝑐 ) can be modeled as a function of medium
radiation on tilted surface Gdβ. Finally, beam radiation operating temperature of the STC (Tm ), of the STC (𝑇𝑚 ),

mcol V2

V1 V3

m3 Turbine


Solar heat
collector thermal Evaporator PC ,TC
area storage


V4 Pump

TL2 V5
Fig.1: Schematic diagram of the system

ambient temperature (𝑇𝑎 ) and solar irradiation on tilted 2.2.1 State 1 (Charging Cycle)
STC (Gβ) according to Eq. 5 [16 ].
When thermal energy production is in higher than the
2.02 (T m – T a ) (T m – T a )
2 requirement of ELD, the system starts following Charging
ηc (t) = 0.84 – G β (t)
– 0.0046 . I(t). G β (t) Cycle. In this mode valves 1, 2, 4 and 5 are kept open in
(5) order to store excess thermal energy. Hourly mass flow of
conduction oil through the evaporator in order to supply
the ELD is calculated using Eq. (8).
Q E (t)
m1 (t) = C (8)
s ∙ ( T H −T L 1 )

where QE (t) denotes the evaporator heat requirement

(discussed in detail in Section 2.3), and TL1 denotes the
conduction oil temperature at evaporator outlet. Excess
mass from the solar collectors (m2 (t) ) is evaluated using
Eq. (9).

m2 (t) = mcol t − m1 (t) (9)

The amount of thermal energy stored (Qsupply (t)) in

thermal storage can be determined using Eq. (9) and Eq.
Fig. 2: Hourly variation of solar insolation
Qsupply (t) = m2 (t) ∙ Cs ∙ ( TH − TL2 ) (10)
Finally, hourly net thermal energy output from STCs
is calculated using Eq. (6) where 𝐴𝐶 denotes collector In this equation TL2 denotes the conduction oil
area of the STC. temperature at thermal storage outlet.

Qcol (t) = 3600 ∙ AC . I(t) . ηc (t) (6) Subsequently, available thermal energy capacity in
the thermal storage available is calculated using Eq. (11)
The extracted thermal energy from the solar where QLosses (t) denotes thermal losses.
collectors is continuously supplied to evaporator and
excess energy stored in a latent heat thermal storage tank Qs (t) = Qs (t − 1) + Qsupply (t) - QLosses (t) (11)
by passing conduction oil through the solar collectors.
Hourly mass flow of conduction oil through the solar Finally, melted PCM percentage of the thermal
collectors is calculated using Eq. (7). storage (Mp) is computed using Eq. (12) where CLS
denotes latent heat of fusion of PCM and MPCM denotes
mcol (t) = C
Q col (t)
(7) total mass of PCM.
s ∙ ( T H −T L )
Q s t ∙100
Mp = (12)
where Cs denotes specific heat capacity the of C LS ∙ M PCM
conduction oil and TH denotes the temperature at the solar
collector outlet. 2.2.2 State 2 (Combined Discharge Cycle)

2.2 Mathematical Model for Thermal Energy Storage When solar thermal energy collected from the collector is
not enough to drive the cycle to provide the ELD alone,
Main purpose of the thermal storage is to store excess system moves to Combined Discharge Cycle (State 2). In
thermal energy from STC in order to support continuous this mode, valves 2, 3, 5 and 6 are kept open and energy
power generation under timely varying ELD and solar from both STC and thermal energy storage are used to
irradiation. Phase Change Material (PCM) is used as the supply the ELD. Thermal energy required from the
thermal storage medium and energy is stored by melting thermal storage (Qrequire (t)) in this state is calculated
the PCM and releases by solidifying. It is essential to using Eq. (13).
come up with a dispatch strategy for both store and
release of energy. Dispatch strategy is based on the Qrequire (t) = QE t − Qcol (t) (13)
difference between solar energy potential and ELD which
consists of three different states i.e Charging Cycle, Finally available thermal energy capacity is
Combined Discharge Cycle and Discharge Cycle. calculated using Eq. (14).

Qs (t) = Qs (t − 1) - Qrequire (t) - QLosses (t) (14)

2.2.3 State 3 (Discharge Cycle) denotes the density of working fluid and ηp (t) denotes
the working efficiency of pump
Discharge cycle is used when solar irradiation is not
available. Stored thermal energy in PCM is used in this ṁcycle t ∙(p E − P C )
state to provide the ELD. Valve 3 and valve 6 are kept ẇP (t) = ρ wF ∙ η p (t)
open in this mode allowing conduction oil to flow through
the thermal storage and evaporator. Thermal energy The efficiency of pump is a function of the mass
required from the thermal storage is calculated using Eq. flow rate through the pump and calculated by using Eq.
15 and available thermal energy capacity in thermal 17 [17]. In Eq. 17, ṁcycle ,ref denotes the reference mass
storage is calculated using Eq. 14. flow rate at peak demand and ηp,ref denotes the reference
efficiency of the pump at peak demand.
Qrequire (t) = QE t (15)
ṁcycle ṁcycle
2.3 Mathematical Model for Organic Rankine Cycle ηp (t) = 2 ∙ ηp,ref ∙ − ηp,ref ∙ (17)
ṁcycle ,ref ṁcycle ,ref
Required turbine work is the addition of mechanical
This section provides a detailed explanation about the work required for electricity generation and pump work.
dynamic mathematical model formulated in order to This is calculated according to Eq. 18 assuming constant
simulate the ORC. Four basic components of the cycle i.e. generator efficiency (ηgen ).
pump, condenser, turbine and evaporator is modeled in
order to come up with work and heat transfer from these ẇload (t)
ẇT (t) = + ẇP (t) (18)
devices. Fig. 3 provides the T/ S diagram of the state η gen
points of ORC.
The isentropic efficiency of the turbine is a function
When considering the work transfer of the cycle, of turbine mass flow rate and ṁcycle ,ref determined using
work input at pump and work output from the turbine has Eq. 19 [17].
being coupled together. Therefore, work input at the
pump is initially calculated using Eq. 16. In this equation, ṁcycle ṁcycle
ηt (ṁcycle ) = -0.1423∙ + 0.2981∙ + 0.6127
ṁcycle t denotes the mass flow rate of working fluid, PE ṁcycle ,ref ṁcycle ,ref

and PC denote evaporator and condenser pressures, ρwF (19)

T Process 1-2: Turbine expansion

Process 1-2s: Isentropic expansion
Process 2-3: Isobaric heat rejection in condenser
Process 3-4: Compression process in pump
Process 4-1: Isobaric heat addition in evaporator


4 2s

? PC
3 QC

Fig. 3: T/S diagram of the ORC

Enthalpy of the working fluid at the turbine outlet procedure the collector areas are calculated for different
(h2) is calculated using Eq. 20 where h1 denotes enthalpy thermal storage capacities. Finally, sensitivity of collector
of working fluid at the turbine inlet and h2S denotes temperature and PCM are evaluated by varying the
enthalpy under iso-entropic working conditions collector temperature and PCM. Selected thermodynamic
properties of used PCM are given in Table 1[16].
h2 = h1 − ηt (ṁcycle ) ∙ h1 − h2s (20)
Table 1
Finally, hourly energy requirement from the Thermodynamic Properties of PCMs used as the thermal
evaporator (QE (t)) is calculated by using Eq. 21 where h4 storage
denotes the enthalpy of the working fluid at pump outlet Melting
Latent heat of Density
PCM temperature
fusion (kJ/kg) (kg/m3)
QE (t) = ṁcycle (t) ∙ (h1 − h4 ) (21) (oC)
151-155 260 1360
3. Simulation of the System Suberic
141-144 245 1020
Simulation Program is developed using C++ language in Sebacic
130-134 228 1270
Visual Studio® 2008 in Microsoft Windows® 07 acid
environment. In this investigation, the system conditions
are evaluated on hourly basis considering timely varying System conditions and size of
solar irradiation and required ELD. ELD is highly components
sensitive to the application. In this work, it was assumed
that the ELD varies throughout the year according to
summer - weekly load IEEE reliability test system [18], Assume AC , MPCM , TC , TE , PC ,PE , TH ,Ta , I ,Wload
which is scaled to 7.5 kW (Fig. 4). Steady state conditions
of system are assumed during each hour.
ORC state points
1,2,3,4 Increase
ηC(t) MPCM

ηT(t), ηp(t), WT(t), WP(t), mcycle(t)

Increase AC

AC is not
QCol(t) QE(t) converging

QS(t) < 0 QS(t), Mp(t) QS(t) > 0

Fig. 4: Hourly ELD variation throughout a week

The simulation is conducted by evaluating thermal Fig. 5 : Flow chart of the algorithm
energy supply from solar collectors and thermal energy
required for evaporator hourly. Subsequently, heat
capacity of latent heat storage is calculated according to 4. Results and Discussion
working mode of system as discussed in Section 2.2. The
latent heat storage capacity is considered as the key It is essential to determine the optimum storage capacity,
condition for continuous operation of the system. The temperature and area of the solar collector, evaporator
condition of the latent heat thermal storage depends on pressure and temperature, and PCM in the final design. In
availability of the usable thermal energy inside the storage order to analyze the relationship between solar collector
(availability of the molten PCM material). According to area and thermal storage capacity, minimum collector
the availability of stored thermal storage energy, the area required to supply the ELD throughout the year for
collector area is increased until continuous power different solar collector temperatures are computed while
generation is feasible throughout the year. Using this varying the thermal storage capacity with Adipic acid

(Fig. 6). Gradual reduction of STC area is expected with
the increase of thermal storage capacity. However,
complex variation takes place due to seasonal variation of
solar irradiation. Variation of STC area with thermal
storage is plotted for Suberic acid and Sebacic acid
similar to Adipic acid (Fig. 7 and Fig. 8).

From simulation results it was validated that, the

required solar collector area reduces with the increase of
thermal storage capacity as expected. Further, it is
observed that the system is getting optimized for the worst
case operation where solar irradiation is at its minimum.
Therefore, the system is over capacity for the rest of the
period with a poor plant factor. However, it is impossible
to find the optimum system design by only considering
the thermal behaviour through a parameter such as area of
STC which continuously decreases with the increase of
thermal storage capacity. Fig. 7 Variation of STC area with capacity of Thermal storage
for Suberic acid
5. Conclusion
As mentioned above, it can be seen that the proposed
system runs below the designed capacity for most of the
time. Therefore, the capital cost for the solar collectors
and thermal storage increases unnecessarily. In order to
utilize the excess energy while increasing power supply
reliability and energy conversion efficiency addition other
energy source such as biomass and wind energy is
proposed in this work.

It is difficult to arrive at an optimal system design based

on obtained results. Therefore, it is essential to combine a
lifecycle cost model along with the dynamic simulation.
In addition to that, multi objective optimization can be
can be carried out considering both life cycle cost and
exergy efficiency in order to come up with optimum
organic fluids, solar collector types and thermal storage Fig. 8 Variation of STC area with capacity of Thermal storage
types with an additional energy source to fulfil the energy for Sebacic acid
demand which will be taken into consideration in future

Fig. 9 Impact of thermal storage medium on STC area at

collector temperature of 160 0C
Fig.6 Variation of STC area with capacity of Thermal storage
for Adipic acid

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