A New Way to Dry Cool Solar Thermal Power Plants – with Underground Air

IMAGE@Fontina Petrakopoulou and Eduardo de la Rocha Camba
31 Mar 2020

Spanish researchers propose a completely new way to dry cool thermal power plants, inspired by commercially available underground heat pumps used to cool buildings.

“The temperature underground is constant and that’s whether it’s under a desert or in cooler climates. So, we can use this constant temperature and the fact that it is not that far down, about 3 meters, to cool down the ambient air before we use it in a power plant for dry cooling,” explained Fontina Petrakopoulou, Professor of Thermal and Fluid Engineering at the University Carlos III of Madrid, author of the study along with PhD student Eduardo de la Rocha Camba.

The new technique would be a new form of dry cooling. Dry cooling would be especially valuable for Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants – the solar thermal form of power which generates electricity using the same steam cycle as coal, nuclear, geothermal and natural gas combined-cycle plants – because they are often located in places with water scarcity and because dry cooling is environmentally superior to wet cooling.

Wet cooling of thermal power plants is widely understood to be environmentally damaging, because it means warmer water is sent out into natural waterways, a thermal pollution that hurts fish. Regulations require that thermal plants must shut down if waterway temperatures rise too high as a result of this thermal pollution.

Their paper, published at Energies this month; Earth-Cooling Air Tunnels for Thermal Power Plants- Initial Design by CFD Modelling was inspired by the concern that in the future, water stress in already arid regions suitable for CSP will further impact the viability of wet cooling

More information: https://www.solarpaces.org