Concentrated solar thermalProject Testing Facility for Storing Heat from Solar Energy
In conjunction with project partners, The University of South Australia undertook a project comprising of establishing a world class high temperature thermal energy storage test facility and the design, construction and testing of two thermal storage system prototypes.
Dispatchability of electricity supply is providing a serious challenge limiting of the growth of of renewable electricity supply both in Australia and around the world. Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) with thermal storage is a significant and economically viable contributor to redressing this situation. Recent international solar thermal installations have incorporated larger storage capacities. The current two tank molten salt thermal energy storage systems and materials have been the standard installed system. The lack of a test facility for high temperature thermal energy storage development has limited the research effort and the validation of laboratory scale materials and systems research. The report outlines the details the design, installations and opportunities created through the establishment of a world class thermal energy storage facility at the University of South Australia (UniSA). The facility will provide the necessary equipment and expertise to drive research and development into innovative low cost high temperature thermal energy storage systems to reduce the risks associated with utilising new technologies by the solar thermal industry.
This facility was designed to enable the testing of large laboratory-scale prototype thermal energy storage systems for CSP. With a 50kW storage capacity providing a heat source of up to 900oC, this facility, one of only a handful in the world, can be programmed to subject a test prototype to the full range of flow and temperature conditions simulating the field operational conditions. This provides the ability to assess the thermal efficiency, charging and discharging performance and the long term stability of a prototype thermal energy storage system.
In parallel, the facility has been utilised during the development and testing of new prototype storage systems that use high density Phase Change Materials (PCMs) for compact thermal storage at medium and high temperatures. The testing of the PCM thermal energy storage system prototypes have proven to be valuable. The charging, discharging and storage effectiveness was assesed and novel concepts for improving the performance were able to be tested leading to recommendations for the continued refinement and development of the new systems.
In addition to supplementing current UniSA thermal energy storage programs, the facility will be available to other researchers and industry participants developing solar thermal technologies. The outcomes of this project will directly contribute to developing cost effective, high temperature storage systems to enhance the dispatchability of solar thermal power plants.