Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) 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 (DOE) to develop a 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 commercial CSP plants is limited to a maximum temperature of 400 degrees C, yielding approximately 40% thermal efficiencies, according to SwRI. Even for developmental CSP technologies, efficiencies are well below those achievable with gas turbine combined-cycle plants, which can be well above 55% thermal efficiencies and as high as 62% for state-of-the-art combined-cycle power plants.
This research project aims to combine the advantages of highly efficient gas turbine power plants with CSP systems by operating the gas turbine at up to 1,000 degrees C combustor air inlet temperatures.
The project, to be conducted in three phases, is expected to begin in August and will continue through 2015. In the first phase, researchers will evaluate combustor concepts and develop the design. The second phase entails fabrication of the combustion system, which will then be tested in the third phase.