Due to their relatively high capital and environmental cost of two-tank molten salt thermal storage systems, a significant amount of research has gone into looking for sensible and latent thermal energy storage alternatives suitable for concentrated solar thermal (CST) plants. Despite a large number of developments in the last decade, comparative studies among promising options have been lacking. In particular, only a few comparative studies are available in which thermal energy storage (TES) systems are integrated as an active subcomponent of CST plant. Therefore, this study compares selected sensible heat thermal energy storage systems based on their integrated performance with other CST components (e.g. a tower -based CST plant with a Rankine cycle) over a year of operation.
In the present study, annual performances of single-medium thermocline (SMT), double-medium thermocline (DMT), and shell-and-tube (ST) system were compared with that of a conventional two-tank molten salt storage system. Concrete with porosity of 0.2 (concrete occupies 80% of the system) was selected as a low cost filler material in the DMT and ST systems. The systems were sized for 15 hours of storage capacity and integrated into a validated 19.9 MWe Gemasolar power plant model with solar multiple of 2.5. Before performing annual integrated simulations, an optimum design of each storage system was selected based on a performance analysis of the storage system over a constant 15 hours discharge. A CST plant with a two-tank molten salt system enables the highest amount of electricity generation in a year followed by the SMT and DMT systems, which resulted in 7% and 9% less electricity generation, respectively. For the CST plant with ST system, 20% less electricity was generated over a year. Overall, this study provides a methodology for the comparison of the TES alternatives, and it gives insight the most promising alternative for replacing two-tank molten salt systems.