Numerical Analysis of Airflow and Output of Solar Chimney Power Plants

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Virginia Tech


Computational fluid dynamics was used to simulate solar chimney power plants and investigate modeling techniques and expected energy output from the system. The solar chimney consists of three primary parts: a collector made of a transparent material such as glass, a tower made of concrete located at the center of the collector, and a turbine that is typically placed at the bottom of the tower. The collector absorbs solar radiation and heats the air below, whereby air flows inward towards the tower. As air exits at the top of the tower, more air is drawn below the collector repeating the process. The turbine converts pressure within the flow into power. The study investigated three validation cases to numerically model the system properly. Modeling the turbine as a pressure drop allows for the turbine power output to be calculated while not physically modeling the turbine. The numerical model was used to investigate air properties, such as velocity, temperature, and pressure. The results supported the claim that increasing the energy into the system increased both the velocities and temperatures. Also, increasing the turbine pressure drop decreases the velocities and increases the temperatures within the system. In addition to the numerical model, analytical models representing the vertical velocity without the turbine and the maximum power output from a specific chimney were used to investigate the effects on the flow when varying the geometry. Increasing the height of the tower increased the vertical velocity and power output, and increasing the diameter increased the power output. Dimensionless variables were used in a regression analysis to develop a predictive equation for power output. The predictive equation was tested with new simulations and was shown to be in very good agreement.



Buoyancy-Driven Flow, Computational fluid dynamics, Natural Convection, Power Plant, Solar Chimney, Solar Updraft Tower