July 26, 2012 — Southwest Research Institute and industry collaborators Solar Turbines Inc., Oak Ridge National Laboratories, German Aerospace Center and San Diego State University have been awarded a $3.8 million contract by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a novel gas turbine combustor for a concentrating solar power (CSP) hybrid gas turbine system. The award was given through DOE's SunShot Initiative, a collaborative national effort to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy.
The majority of today's commercial CSP plants generate steam to support steam turbine electric power generation. The steam generated by these state-of-the-art commercial CSP plants is limited to a maximum temperature of 400°C, yielding approximately 40 percent thermal efficiencies. Even for developmental CSP technologies, these efficiencies are well below those achievable with gas turbine combined cycle plants, which can be well above 55 percent thermal efficiencies and as high as 62 percent for state-of-the-art combined cycle power plants. This project aims to combine the advantages of highly efficient gas turbine power plants with concentrating solar power systems by operating the gas turbine at up to 1,000°C combustor air inlet temperatures.
"To increase the CSP tower air receiver and gas turbine temperature capabilities to 1,000°C, SwRI and its collaborators will develop a novel external gas turbine combustor, which can be integrated with a hybrid CSP gas turbine power plant," said Dr. Klaus Brun, a program director in SwRI's Mechanical Engineering Division who will serve as project manager for the effort.
The project, to be conducted in three phases, is expected to begin in August 2012, and will continue through 2015. In phase 1, researchers will evaluate combustor concepts and develop the design. Phase 2 entails fabrication of the combustion system, which will then be tested in phase 3.