Student project

Life Cycle Analysis and Thermo-Environomic Optimization of Concentrated Solar Thermal Power Plants

Confronted to resources depletion and the global warming, the humanity has to reduce its fossil fuels dependence. The renewable energy is an interesting option to reach this aim. The most powerful one is the solar energy since in few hours, the Earth receives more energy than the humanity consumes in one year. In order to convert this energy to electricity, the concentrated solar power plants (CSP) are more advantageous than photovoltaics (PV) because of the possibility to store the energy. Indeed, they concentrate with numerous mirrors the sunlight to heat up a fluid which can be stored in a big insulated tank. Then, the heat energy is transferred to a steam which drives a turbine and a generator to produce electricity. Nowadays, this type of power plants has a real potential. The aim of this work is to test and confirm that the CSP engender less environmental impacts than other types of power plants over their entire life cycle including production, operation and end of life. Furthermore, four different technologies of CSP (tower, parabolic trough, Fresnel and dish) are compared in order to find the most efficient one for the environment and identify their strong and weak points. Finally, multi-objectives optimizations, which consider economic and thermodynamic aspects, are performed to find the optimal configuration for each power plant. In this work, the environmental impacts are calculated by carrying out a life cycle analysis (LCA) with the Impact 2002+ method. It takes into account the damages on resources, climate change, human health and ecosystem quality. According to this study, the results indicate that CSP produce lightly less impacts than PV but much less impacts than fossil fuels energy. The comparisons between the different CSP reveal that the dish technology engenders less damages than other due to its high efficiency and less facilities. However, its investment costs are too important to be competitive. From the other hand, Fresnel and parabolic technologies produce too much environmental impacts for lower costs. The weak point of Fresnel is its very low efficiency and the disadvantage of parabolic is the use of a specific synthetic oil which is very harmful for the environment, without speaking of the possible spills. Moreover, the hybridation with natural gas of both technologies reduces their costs but increases considerably the impacts on climate change and resources categories. Finally, the tower technology is the most advantageous CSP regarding the impacts, the electricity production and costs. It does not need hybridation to have low costs and have an important storage capacity to produce electricity during nights and cloudy days. However, the investment is still too important to be more attractive than fossil fuel power plants. Therefore, there are two possibilities: to implement a CO2 tax of around 60$/MWh or to improve CSP technology. For the last option, the steel of the mirrors structure, which is the most harmful material according to LCA results, can be reduced and thus, the impacts and the costs will be lower. It can also be possible to use recycled steel or another material. Another hint is to build CSP in a very sunny regions with a DNI of at least 1750 kWh/m2 /yr with short transmission lines. Finally, it is important to increase as much as possible the efficiency of CSP to produce more energy and decrease the environmental impacts too.


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