An Estimation of the Performance Limits of Dry Cooling on Trough-Type Solar Thermal Plants

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


The southwestern US is an ideal location for solar power plants due to its abundant solar resource, while there is a difficulty in implementing wet cooling systems due to the shortage of water in this region. Dry cooling could be an excellent solution for this, if it could achieve a high efficiency and low cost as wet cooling. Some dry cooling systems are currently in operation, and investigations of their performance have been reported in the literature. This paper looks into the limits to the power production implicit in dry cooling, assuming that improvements might be made to the system components. Use of higher performance heat transfer surfaces is one such possible improvement. We have developed a model of a fairly typical, but simplified, solar trough plant, and simulated thermodynamic performance of this with the software Gatecycle. We have examined the power generation and cycle efficiency of the plant for the Las Vegas vicinity with conventional wet cooling and conventional dry cooling cases considered separately using this software. TMY2 data are used for this location for this purpose. Similarly, the same studies are carried out for “ideal” cooling systems as a comparison. We assumed that in the ideal dry cooling system, the condensing temperature is the ambient dry bulb temperature, and in the ideal wet cooling system, it is the ambient wet bulb temperature. It turned out that the ideal dry cooling system would significantly outperform the conventional wet cooling system, indicating the possibility of the dry cooling system being able to achieve increased performance levels with component improvements.


Heat Transfer, Combustion | Oil, Gas, and Energy | Sustainability


ASME 2008 2nd International Conference on Energy Sustainability, Jacksonville, Florida, USA, August 10–14, 2008


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