Exploring Alternative Designs for Solar Chimneys using Computational Fluid Dynamics

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

Solar chimney power plants use the buoyancy-nature of heated air to harness the Sun's energy without using solar panels. The flow is driven by a pressure difference in the chimney system, so traditional chimneys are extremely tall to increase the pressure differential and the air's velocity. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) was used to model the airflow through a solar chimney. Different boundary conditions were tested to find the best model that simulated the night-time operation of a solar chimney assumed to be in sub-Saharan Africa. At night, the air is heated by the energy that was stored in the ground during the day dispersing into the cooler air. It is necessary to model a solar chimney with layer of thermal storage as a porous material for FLUENT to correctly calculate the heat transfer between the ground and the air. The solar collector needs to have radiative and convective boundary conditions to accurately simulate the night-time heat transfer on the collector. To correctly calculate the heat transfer in the system, it is necessary to employ the Discrete Ordinates radiation model. Different chimney configurations were studied with the hopes of designing a shorter solar chimney without decreases the amount of airflow through the system. Clusters of four and five shorter chimneys decreased the air's maximum velocity through the system, but increased the total flow rate. Passive advections wells were added to the thermal storage and were analyzed as a way to increase the heat transfer from the ground to the air.

Computational fluid dynamics, Solar Chimney, Buoyancy-Driven Flow, Natural Convection