Applied Energy 202 (2017) 377–385

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Efficient solar power generation combining photovoltaics and mid-/low-
temperature methanol thermochemistry
Wenjia Li a,b, Yong Hao a,b,⇑
Institute of Engineering Thermophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, PR China
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, PR China

h i g h l i g h t s 

A PVT system integrating PV and thermochemistry is proposed, for the first time. 
High efficiency, energy storage ability and temperature insensitivity are achieved. 
Net solar-electric efficiency of 43% and overall efficiency of 55% are obtained. 
Solar energy storage via syngas enables stable power supply all day long.

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: A hybrid solar power generation system integrating a solar photovoltaic (PV) module and a solar thermo-
Received 1 February 2017 chemical module is proposed based on methanol thermochemistry. Sunlight is concentrated by trough
Received in revised form 13 April 2017 mirror collectors and partially converted to electricity by PV cells overlain on the surface of a solar ther-
Accepted 9 May 2017
mochemical reactor. An endothermic chemical process of methanol (e.g., decomposition) within the reac-
Available online 1 June 2017
tor then absorbs the ‘‘waste heat” of the PV cells and simultaneously cools the cells. During this process,
the low-level thermal energy from the sunlight is upgraded to high-level chemical energy in syngas,
which is stored and burned to generate electricity when necessary. Analysis indicates that the theoretical
net solar-electric efficiency of the hybrid system could be as high as 45% and relatively insensitive to
Methanol thermochemistry operation temperature and pressure. Additionally, the system exhibit a good potential in solar energy
Hybrid storage, and capable of providing stable electricity supply around the clock. The PV–thermochemical
Power generation hybrid system might suggest a promising approach for efficient and stable power generation from solar
Efficiency energy.
Ó 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction (PV) cells is relatively low. Take crystalline silicon solar cells for
example, although the entire visible part of the solar spectrum
Drastic increase in fossil fuel consumption and the consequen- and some parts of the infrared spectrum fall well within their con-
tial worldwide climate change have lead to a pressing demand on version capability, efficiency of commercially available silicon cells
low-cost, large-scale utilization technologies of renewable energy is usually 10–20% [1], while the majority of solar irradiation is
to gradually phase out fossil fuels in a foreseeable future. Renew- wasted in the form of low-temperature (e.g., 100 °C or lower)
able energy sources that are commensurate with or far beyond thermal energy [2]–longer wavelength radiation that falls below
the scale of human energy demand, such as solar energy, are rare the band gap of silicon does not carry enough energy to excite elec-
and yet carry particularly important historical missions. trons and thus entirely turns into dissipated heat; shorter wave-
Solar energy utilization still faces a major cost barrier that par- length radiation with photonic energy higher than the band gap
tially results from the relatively low conversion efficiency of sun- can only be partially converted to electricity by quantum principles
light to power. Among a portfolio of current solar power underlying photoelectric effects [3] and the rest is still converted to
technologies, the efficiency of practically applicable photovoltaic heat. Although much higher efficiencies have been achieved
through advances in materials and configuration of solar cells
⇑ Corresponding author at: Institute of Engineering Thermophysics, Chinese (e.g., 46.0% cell efficiency for III–V multi-junction solar cells [4]),
Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, PR China. waste heat still accounts for more than half of the solar energy
E-mail address: (Y. Hao). input. Moreover, not only PV cells are practically used as modules
0306-2619/Ó 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

. 12. If we took these factors into consider- dissipated to the ambient.28. but can also driving various thermal processes. which typically undermines solar PV generation due to PVT system that is not only capable of delivering high energy con- adverse temperature effect of solar cells [8].g.g. because not only the applicability of thermal energy is limited by many factors (e. Simulation of a hybrid system combining Si-based CPV 0. if the optical efficiency of solar collection is 0. nario by combining the two technologies.19]. out that the efficiency of 45% did not take the optical and heat the efficiency of a concentrated PV system consisting of 46. the concept of a hybrid power generation system 0. PV cells are used as the thermal absorbing terized by high solar-electric efficiency and energy storage capac- layer [9]. (15% for solar thermal power generation systems with a central Primary reasons for modest efficiency enhancement of PVT sys- tower receiver concentrator [7]) because significant losses (i. However. [31] expanded this concept aiming at the best sce- CPV) to enhance power generation performance and lower gener. Most importantly. tively high energy level) is first converted to electricity rather which is also capable of easily storing thermal energy. heat [33–35]. but high-efficiency PV cells commonly ORC (due to the low temperature of the heat source.26].14]. From the perspective of the ther.g. absorber) into account. CSP generation might achieve a synergistic effect between the stable power output is essential for solar energy utilization tech- two approaches.95) [21–23]. A photovoltaic/thermal hybrid smooth out influences by both transient fluctuations and long- solar system (i. PVT system) utilizes dissipated thermal energy term instabilities of solar irradiation through energy storage in from PV modules to supply heat. however. it combines a solar ther- DE A¼ ð1Þ mal driven. it would be much more desirable for such systems to have effi...g.40) of ters [18. Heat at 200 ciency was enhanced from 9. GaAs PV cells therefore.. Theoretical and experimental studies on PVT systems were DH200 C ¼ 97 kJ/mol) with a gas and steam combined cycle (GSCC) reported as early as the 1970s [11. .. System efficiencies based on the first law of thermodynamics could reach as high as 60–80% [25. the module factor and optical as high as 45%. By comparison. For ciency of 34% of triple-junction PV cells at a solar concentration example.6 Syngas combustion: C combining a heat engine and a photovoltaic module was put for. PVT collector orientation [20]. a power generation module cesses could be reduced. Analytical studies [15. the exergy loss of the collection and conversion pro. the low-energy level (0.85 [5] and ratio of 200 and temperature of 25 °C. time).3% for 150 °C [32]). Energy levels of methanol chemical energy. lead to a clear distinction between of the system combining a triple-junction PV cell and an ORC is cell efficiency and system efficiency. and conversion engines at low temperatures (e. Theoretical and experimental studies were carried the perspective of physical energy utilization. The photonic energy of sunlight (at a rela.378 W. from sunlight temperature coefficient of solar cells [8] and low efficiency of heat to heat).8 space. losses of the solar collector (including solar concentrator and cient single cells [4] then translates to 35. frame shadow [24]. but conventional PVT systems often fall short in this of using either one alone. it must be pointed the efficiency of a PV module to be 90% of that of a single cell [6].or nol decomposition system [33] is as high as 35% at a temperature water-heating [13.12]. could be utilized for version efficiency at relatively low temperatures. concentrated solar ation. Y.. In such systems. indispensable for the hybrid system.g. Tourkov et al. and solar irradiation [21.29]. which. 1). From by experiments. from heat to work) processes of solar energy. and exergy efficiency. are both than being converted directly to heat at a much lower energy level. As a result. 140 °C). tems that combine PV modules and heat engines include negative irreversibilities) typically occur during capture (e. B To this end.36–0. from the perspective of the second law of thermodynam.4 with organic Rankine cycle (ORC) was carried out and the effi.81% to 11.. for the latter.22] on PV temperature. The energy level is defined as the ratio with solar methanol decomposition might be an appropriate of the enthalpy change (Delta_H) to the exergy change (Delta_E) choice. 1. Methanol decomposition: A. methanol decom- out on the influences of PV cooling channel geometrical parame. of a process [10]: The idea of power generation with solar methanol decomposi- tion was first proposed by Hong and Jin. or to drive thermal power cycles. meet the requirements. D Syngas C cient power generation as energy output. In this study.e. system energy effi- ciency. either for direct heating purposes an appropriate form would be much more desirable.2% (practical efficiency). A new energy. with the capability of generating electricity while collect. a significant improvement compared with the effi- loss become inevitable factors that must be taken into account. [27] and analyzed by other researchers later [6. but the energy level of PV-rejected thermal energy Heat at 1300 A is also quite low. The relatively low efficiency is mainly due to the low efficiency of the PV module Fig. cooling fluid temperature [23].g. transport (e. ity. The high efficiency is mainly due to the compre- modeling studies [17] on PVT systems were performed and verified hensive utilization of physical and chemical energy (Fig. The (e. however. Li. potential contribution to efficiency promotion by heat engines is Cascaded utilization of solar energy integrating solar PV and partially offset by the decline in PV efficiency.0 B Methanol ics.. low-temperature. cooling fluid flow rate solar thermal energy is converted to the high energy level (0. However. high-efficiency solar thermal power module. The net solar-electric (NSE) efficiency of the solar metha- rejected from PV modules serves as a heat source for space. with heat transfer fluid). Energy level 0. efficiency ation cost. work in conjunction with concentrating optics (e. significantly impacts the which means that nearly two-thirds of the incident solar energy is performance of the system. syngas chemical energy and (Si solar cells with a cell efficiency of 12% at 25 °C) and that of the thermal energy at 200 °C and 1300 °C. which is charac- mal utilization module. For the former. high-efficiency PV module and a ing heat from the sun. Hao / Applied Energy 202 (2017) 377–385 (instead of single cells). Methanol combustion: D ward by Chubb et al. the promotion of the hybrid system efficiency would be less power (CSP) exhibits similarly low or even lower efficiencies than 5% (rather than 11%). The basic rationale is that thermal respect due to the lack of an energy storage component. aiming at higher efficiencies beyond the reach nologies. These facts. 1.0% effi.16] and numerical of merely 230 °C.e. poses at 200 °C and above. A temperature-tolerant. mid-temperature (200 °C) endothermic DH decomposition reaction of methanol (CH3OH ? CO + 2H2.83% [30]. we propose a hybrid PVT system. Fresnel lens.

One possible approach would be revisiting the the mixture is cooled to ambient temperature and methanol is con- idea of PVT but replacing ‘‘thermal” with ‘‘thermochemical” for densed and recycled to the methanol tank. can tolerate temperatures up to 250 °C [41]. The conceptual PVT system pro. The GSCC operates at rated operation conditions feature very important for addressing the instability issue of solar unless the syngas supply is used up. surface of PV modules by trough concentrators. Analytical methodology is introduced as a reference system (Fig. [33] 3. products as well as unreacted methanol. The efficiency of the InP/InGaAs/Ge triple-junction PV module used in this study is given as [6]: gT i . centralized power genera- approaches (e. 2 and 3. which in this study. methanol flows to the reactor. and con. In the end. efficiency at Ti. or fuel cells) to tion plant with a GSCC and/or a distributed power generation quickly offset fluctuations in PV outputs during daytime [40]. between chemical energy level of methanol (i. Thermodynamic hybrid and reference systems. the system is so designed heat directly. ð3Þ where gT i . 3a). tially pumped from its storage tank into heat exchanger A.g. the integration of thermochemistry into that syngas generated during daytime can last GSCC consumption a PVT system essentially adds energy storage capability as well. However. Major differences between them include the PV module and recycling of unreacted Thermodynamic modeling and simulation are carried out on the methanol in the system proposed in this study.cell is the individual InP/InGaAs/Ge triple-junction PV cell Fig. and heater B. 0. its temperature is denoted as Ti.. Li. while completely rely on syngas power generation at nighttime In the heaters (A and B) and reactor. Due to optical losses during concentration. ð4Þ where gT i . 3b). Reducing the irreversibility during such The mixture of methanol and syngas is cooled in heat exchangers processes is important to further improve the efficiency of solar A and B and finally flows into the syngas storage tank. In addition. 4) and a random one is selected for study. For comparison. 2. Sunlight is first concentrated by a trough solar concentrator. Y. [33].cell  gmod . internal combustion engines. Implications of key features of the novel system are dis- [36.03 [33]) and thermal energy level (e..PV . 1. in which power generation.PV is the PV module efficiency at Ti. it is given as: dQ abs ðT i Þ ¼ dQ tot ðT i Þ  gopt . Trickling out from heater ciency. One part of the absorbed sunlight is converted to electricity by the PV mod- ule. heat exchanger B. considerable irreversibility might still be B.e. heater Methanol solar thermochemistry makes it possible for low-level A. tion module with solar methanol decomposition. methanol is sequen- up to 23. Temperature for Given the complementary characteristics of PV and thermo. only a part of the sun- light is absorbed by the PV modules. which however was usually not emphasized or even in this system could be replaced by internal combustion engines. the PV component employed in the storage.37] leads to significant exergy losses due to the difference cussed shortly. Thus. Note that the GSCC employed energy. (e. Methanol is heated and/or solar thermal energy to be upgraded to and utilized at an elevated vaporized by dissipated heat from PV modules and heat of reaction energy level and to generate power at a significantly higher effi. The solar thermal energy is then analysis of the hybrid system shows that the synergy between released at the syngas combustion temperature (e. decomposed into syngas by the dissipated heat from PV modules. the latter is closer to (and yet still above) the energy respectively. 1300 °C with the PV and thermochemical power generation components could energy level of 0.g.81) for power generation. and gmod is the ratio between the total PV module . the electrical power output is given as: dW PV ðT i Þ ¼ dQ abs ðT i Þ  gT i . a for up to 24 hours..95). 2 and 3a) hybrid system are InP/InGaAs/Ge triple-junction PV cells. ð2Þ where dQ tot ðT i Þ is the total solar energy input of the point before concentration and gopt is the collector optical efficiency.g. As for chemical energy lead to a win-win situation in terms of comprehensive generation utilization. In the hybrid system (Fig. ignored in previous PVT systems.. fuel cells or other devices fueled by syngas. system with internal combustion engines/fuel cells. in which a part of the methanol is incurred during key steps such as collection.g. Description of the system 1300 °C). direct combustion of methanol for power generation efficiency.. methanol decomposition in the hybrid system is 150–250 °C. the chemical components with respect to temperature and energy same as that in Ref.PV ¼ gT i . the hybrid sys- posed above could use syngas-driven power generation tem might be suitable for a large-scale.81) of the combustion products (at 2. which is the largest exergy loss in power generation sys- tems [38]. Schematic diagram of the hybrid system. a solar thermochemical system similar to the system in Ref. The absorber tube is discretized into control volumes (Fig. 0. The major difference between the hybrid and refer- level of thermal energy at combustion temperature and the exergy ence systems is that the absorbers of the former are covered by loss during combustion is reduced by up to 7%. Splitting methanol into syngas before combustion can The schematic diagram of the hybrid system and flow diagrams degrade the methanol energy level to the syngas energy level of the hybrid and reference systems are shown in Figs.6% of the exergy loss during methanol combustion [39]. absorption. W. integrating a GaAs PV module and a power genera. To ensure the the low-efficiency dilemma of heat engines driven by PV-rejected storage capacity of the hybrid system. which accounts for PV modules. the syngas in the ‘‘T” part to help the thermal module of PVT systems out of the tank is compressed and fed into the GSCC as fuel. version of solar energy. Hao / Applied Energy 202 (2017) 377–385 379 chemical energy of syngas. sunlight is focused onto the or whenever needed. we hereby propose a hybrid PVT system (Figs.

372 to approximate the PV cell in Ref.322 150 0. ð5Þ methanol.314 125 0.389 150 0. are energy. according to Ref. Vwind is velocity of wind. As a part of the dissipated solar energy. [4]). (4) at different temperatures. Temperature (°C) PV efficiency Temperature (°C) PV efficiency Temperature (°C) PV efficiency Temperature (°C) PV efficiency 25 0.304 .370 200 0.342 50 0.loss ðT i Þ ¼ dQ tot ðT i Þ  ða þ c  V wind Þ  .275 25 0. The PV efficiencies of the PV cell is direct normal irradiance.380 175 0. the radiative heat loss. calculated by Eq.cell ¼ gT i .6]. [4. The rest of the absorbed sun- PV cell efficiency at Ti is given as [6]: light is dissipated in the form of heat. and is given as: dQ diss ðT i Þ ¼ dQ abs ðT i Þ  ð1  gT i . the con- where gT i . efficiency and individual PV cell efficiency (0.333 75 0.266 50 0. is given as [42]: Table 1 Table 2 Efficiencies of the PV cell in Ref.257 75 0. The individual shown in Tables 1 and 2.PV Þ ð6Þ gT i .294 225 0. Another part of the dissipated solar in Refs. and (b) the reference system. T i þ DT  T a 71:4 which is a default option in the following discussion if not men. the rest is lost to the environment via convection and thermal radiation.313 175 0. [6] at different temperatures.238 125 0.9) [6]. Efficiencies of the PV cell in Ref. Y.304 200 0.285 250 0.298. Li. Fig. and DT is the temperature difference between PV where Ta is ambient temperature.380 W.361 225 0. and DNI modules and flowing methanol. respectively.0 þ 0:0142 ln C þ ð0:000715 þ 6:97  105 ln CÞ A part of the dissipated solar heat is absorbed by the flowing  ðT i þ DT  25Þ C 6 200. C is solar con- centrating ratio. Hao / Applied Energy 202 (2017) 377–385 Fig. Flow diagrams of (a) the hybrid system.0 is the individual PV cell efficiency at a temperature of vective heat loss is given as [42]: 25 °C and concentration ratio of 1 (0. [6]. 4. dQ con.247 100 0. ð7Þ DNI C tioned or 0.323 100 0. [4] at different temperatures.351 250 0. Diagram of energy transfer processes and energy balance on a selected control volume. 3.

ð9Þ is shown in Fig. ð20Þ Q tot ¼ dQ tot ðT i Þ ð13Þ DNI  C  A0 A where Exheat is the exergy part of the thermal energy absorbed by When the same amount of methanol flows through the refer- methanol in the reference system. r is latent heat of methanol vaporization. defined as [45]: perature Ti. the energy absorbed by methanol and the erence and hybrid systems that absorb solar energy for the same power produced by the GSCC are the same as that of the hybrid amount of methanol flow through the system (symbolized by n). the reference systems is defined as the exergy difference between total thermal energy absorbed by methanol is given as: (R the electricity and exergy of waste heat during sunlight collection. _ system. The only difference between them is that the thermal respectively.B are outlet temperatures of methanol in W PV þ W ME heaters A and B.B are inlet temperatures of methanol in heaters A and B. The thermal energy absorbed by methanol is the difference W PVþME ge ¼ . ð17Þ verse individual points of the system. which is given as [43]: using Aspen Plus [44].B fT out. and LHV is the lower heating value of methanol. including methanol DNI C warm-up. and (2) the reaction products are CO The total solar energy input in the reference system is given as: and H2 only (at stoichiometric ratio). Li. methanol decomposition. 2 1 as: b = 2.B þ n_  r ðT v.B Þ T a þ 273:15  1 W PV ðT i Þ  1  1  ð12Þ Exheat T i þ 273:15 rlos.T out. the thermal energy absorbed by methanol is given as: W ref  W ME gse. the electricity increment ratio is where n_ is molar methanol flow rate. To compare the perfor- n  DHP. To describe how the sunlight is utilized in the entire W PVþME  W ME hybrid system. R dQ ðT i Þ ¼ n_  C P. nol temperature and vaporizes methanol in the heaters or decom. and power generation is simulated perature. Z   T a þ 273:15 when methanol flows through the system. syngas where eab is the emissivity of the absorber and Tsky is the sky tem- storage. . respectively.B .P where Wref is the overall work output of the reference system with dQ ðT i Þ ¼ n_  r fT v. energy absorbed by methanol in the reference system is directly obtained from sunlight.T i  dT þ n_  DHP.B is enthalpy change when same as that of the hybrid system). the NSE efficiency is utilized by the PV modules and methanol at one point with tem.B. W.B Þ Furthermore. ð8Þ stored in the syngas. gse. Key param- eters for the simulation are summarized in Table 3.A Þ [ ðT in.loss ðT i Þ  dQ rad. The above-mentioned analysis describes how the sunlight is Similar to other solar hybrid power plants. a triple-pressure heat Q 0tot ¼ dQ 0tot ðT i Þ ð15Þ recovery steam generator (HRSG).red ¼  DNI  C  A0 DNI  C  A Accordingly. the exergy loss reduction between the hybrid and When methanol flows through heaters (A. and c = 6. syngas combustion.T out.T out.loss ðT i Þ ð14Þ methanol decomposition: (1) thermodynamic equilibrium is reached within the reactor. 2a). Hao / Applied Energy 202 (2017) 377–385 381 ðT i þ DTÞ4  T 4sky 71:4 These equations describe how solar energy is absorbed and dQ rad.P is vaporization temperature of where WPV is the work output of the PV-only system (its area is the methanol at pressure P.T i is heat capacity of metha- defined as: nol when methanol is at Ti. 3b) and poses methanol in the reactor.92  10 W K m2. methanol decomposes and reaches an equilibrium at pressure P To explore the reason for NSE efficiency promotion in the and temperature Tout. T out. ð11Þ > :_ the same amount of methanol as the input. The schematic diagram of the simulation T sky ¼ T a  8. the exergy loss reduction ratio is defined as: Q me ¼ R R Z    dQ ðT i Þ ¼ n_  C P. the NSE efficiency of the ref- by methanol raises the methanol temperature from Ti to Ti + dT in erence system is also defined: heaters A and B. The next analysis is based on Q tot methanol flowing through the whole system. is given as:  1 dA  gopt  gPV ðT i Þ  Z Exheat T i þ 273:15 ¼  . When the thermal energy absorbed that of the reference system (Fig. Results and discussion for at a control volume is given as: The following assumptions are made for the simulation of dQ ðT i Þ ¼ dQ 0tot ðT i Þ  gopt  dQ con. W PVþME  W PV  W ME rincr ¼ . The whole process.02  109 W K4 m2. methanol as the input.loss ðT i Þ ¼ dQ tot ðT i Þ  eab  b   .A . hybrid system. not the PV cells. B) and reactor. dQ ðT i Þ ¼ dQ diss ðT i Þ  dQ con.B g mance of the hybrid system with that of the PV-only and methanol- only power generation systems.B ðT v.loss ðT i Þ ð10Þ which is the sum of the electricity from the PV modules and GSCC. A0 and A are the areas of the ref- ence system (Fig. ð16Þ between the dissipated solar energy and the heat loss.loss ðT i Þ  dQ rad. and a steam turbine.T i  dT > ðT in. Tout. methanol recycling. 3a).T i  dT þ n_  DHP. C P.A and Tin. where W ME is the work output of GSCC with the same amount of The thermal energy absorbed by methanol either raises metha. The relation between the solar energy input and thermal energy absorbed by methanol 4. To compare the performance of the hybrid system (Fig.P > T out. ð18Þ 8 Q 0tot _ < n  C P.P 6 T out. the point-wise analysis stated above is taken to tra. T v. The power generation efficiency of the hybrid system is defined The heat loss parameters are: a = 1. 5.P g . the total solar energy input before concentrating. Tin.61  103 J K1 m3 [42].B and Tout. The GSCC employed in the Z simulation is a combination of a gas turbine. T out. Y.B Þ=T v. ð19Þ respectively. and DHP.PVþME ¼ . which is Q tot þ n_  LHV given as: where WPV+ME is the overall work output of the hybrid system.ME ¼ .T out.

9% of the hybrid system is approximately one- Collector optical efficiency (gopt) 0.15 between the PV modules and solar thermochemical module and 0.2%.382 W.0–35. However.5  106 Pa Ambient temperature (Ta) 15 °C achievable efficiencies at the system level. On the other hand. the effi- Concentrating ratio (C) 80 Reaction pressure 3. system-level) efficiency of 35. a comparison between the Emissivity of PV modules (eab) 0. hence.00 0. Solar thermal A comparison of the electricity generation between the tandem 0.70 obtained by taking advantage of the complementary nature 0.g.0% of the PV cells disguises the real difference in practically Fuel inlet pressure 2. Hao / Applied Energy 202 (2017) 377–385 Fig. which results in the alleviation of exergy loss during sunlight collection and thus efficiency promotion in the hybrid system. According to Eq.0  105–2..4% of the hybrid system and the efficiency of Pressure ratio of gas turbine 17 46.4%. Pressure/bar (19)) is in the range of 17–18% while the reaction pressure varies Fig. 0.30 3 7 11 15 19 23 collector and amount of methanol being the same. the improvement is 0. The NSE efficiency of the hybrid system first increases and erence system is mainly due to the fact that the absorber in the then declines as the reaction pressure increases. the electricity increment ratio (Eq.75 0.2% for the PV cells with 46. indicating that the hybrid system generates more composition of electricity of the hybrid system. Table 3 are achieved using the PV cells from Ref.1. indicating that the hybrid system obtains PV[4]+Methanol almost one half more exergy from solar energy than the reference Net solar-electric efficiency PV[6]+Methanol 0.34 at the cost of even higher-level chemical energy (e. The significant promotion in efficiency compared with the ref- put..9% to Reaction temperature 225 °C 45. For the same amount of solar energy input.32 Solar PV hybrid system and parallel system (i. This is mainly due to two reasons: .85 [5] (both multiplied to single-cell efficiency). 6 shows the NSE efficiency of the hybrid only system efficiency of 35. which inevitably incurs a modular Minimum heat transfer temperature difference (DT) 10 °C efficiency coefficient of 0.4% of Numerical simulation is carried out with the model and param. 6. syngas) Methanol 0. methanol). The NSE effi- Absorptivity of PV modules (a) 1 ciency of 40.0% efficiency PV cell [4] were used instead. Selected as the indicator. Net solar-to-electric efficiency of the hybrid and reference systems. Efficiency promotion resulting from integration the true difference therefore is that the NSE efficiency of 45. When taking both factors into account. if a 46.44 system.5% verted into electricity first and only the rest degrades to low- energy level heat. Parameters Value To evaluate the benefits of the concept of integration between DNI 800 W/m2 the PV-only and reference systems.2–42.1.38 0. 5.3  106 Pa ciency of the hybrid system could be further boosted from 42. sunlight is con- of up to 42.36 the ‘‘leverage” effect (Fig.0% 4. [6] when the reaction Summary of key parameters. The NSE efficiency hybrid system is covered by PV modules. 1) of the latter.05 0. is also carried out. which promotes low- 0. and reference systems and various components of electricity out. 6). a PV-only system and a Methanol methanol-only system arranged in parallel). Li.10 level thermal energy to high-level chemical energy (e..80 0. the 45. we reach a practically achievable (i. PV cells have to work Exhaust temperature from HRSG 85 °C as modules and multi-junction cells have to work together with Temperature of syngas storage tank 15 °C solar concentration systems. Y. (20).e.9% of the reference system Velocity of wind (Vwind) 4 m/s (Fig. the exergy loss reduction 0. from 3 to 23 bar.9 and an optical efficiency of 0. Schematic diagram of the simulation model in Aspen Plus.73 fifth higher than that of 32. Performance of the hybrid system single-cell efficiency. the seemingly marginal difference between the Turbine inlet temperature 1250 °C NSE efficiency of 45.5 hybrid system and the reference system is performed.g. temperature is 225 °C and the reaction pressure is 7 bar..1.40 Compared with the PV-only system.46 ratio reaches up to 49%. electricity than the parallel one. savings in 0.e.42 exergy always lead to more electricity output and thus higher Electricity ratio efficiency. Fig.9% and the system electricity efficiency of up to 54. with the area of the 0.4% peak efficiency of the hybrid system already takes both factors into account. the hybrid system is more than one-quarter higher than the PV- eters described above. and 4.

Furthermore.350 15 r 0. which results in a lower exergy sures remains quite stable (i.325 ba 0.g. opposed to being only used in a cascaded way by the PV module As can be observed from the dashed lines in Figs. 250 °C might also be reasonable considering advancement in PV ity).2.425 ar 3b 0. On the other hand. by GSCC) for power genera. even if considered. electricity. 42. an optimum NSE efficiency is observed in both parameters on system performance and determine optimum the range of 175–250 °C and the optimum remains virtually operating conditions. which makes it possible to lower the total electricity. By comparison. 8. the latest studies by Ma et al.6% in Fig.44 Optimal efficiency Net solar-electric efficiency 0.. including reaction pressure and temperature. but other types of solar cells as engines was not explicitly considered. Fossil fuel saving and energy storage reaction temperature for lower reaction pressure is also lower due Analysis of the electricity composition reveals that the majority to heat absorption and volume expansion during methanol decom- of the electricity originates from methanol. W. ence of temperature variation can be offset by changing the tion system. This means that syngas-driven power generation would then primarily shift to the kinetic side.400 7b ar 1bar b 0. energy storage in the form of low-level explicit or latent heat might A close inspection on the influence of temperature shows that be inefficient and uneconomic. This means that the hybrid system needs less fossil fuel without sacrificing system performance. 3b) only accounts for 16% of the total to solar energy collection) and pressure (related to pump work). ciency increases as temperature increases. methanol decomposition) as and 8.. It is also noteworthy [46]. 7. which might inspire approaches (e. nisms. pressures versus the reaction temperature.300 175 225 ba 23 200 250 0.g. Net solar-to-electric efficiency of the hybrid system at different reaction Fig. with PV cells operating at 200 °C for 1320 h. the in the PV-only system. ciency. the goal of steadily supplying Pt/a-MoC catalyst at 150 °C. When pressure is in the range of 15–23 bar.g.2.1. In other words.40 ar 2bar 0. [47] demon- while syngas power generation could be completely relied on at strated decomposition of methanol at a respectable rate with 2% nighttime or whenever needed. Impact of reaction pressure and temperature pressures in the temperature range of 175–250 °C. 7 and 8. 7 is presented in a different manner in Fig. no significant that the electricity from the PV modules approximately equals that influences on the GaAs structure and PV efficiency are observed. pressure. the efficiency of the hybrid system at the lowest temperature of 150 °C monotonically declines with the increase of pressure (Fig. (2) the methanol in the hybrid system is optimal NSE efficiencies for different reaction temperatures/pres- decomposed before combustion. 7). Net solar-to-electric efficiency of the hybrid system at different reaction temperatures versus reaction pressure.275 0.32 19 150 r 0.. the electricity from solar energy in requirements on system operation.e. is plotted in Figs. as 0. Hao / Applied Energy 202 (2017) 377–385 383 (1) the solar energy in the hybrid system is utilized by the solar PV an optimization function of both parameters. while the electric. solar well. which implies that the solar energy can rates could be further lowered. the solar energy stored in temperature for methanol decomposition to occur at respectable syngas is relatively stable. In contrast.450 0. PV temperature in the range of 150–200 °C is reasonable syngas carrying sufficient solar energy can be stored first during for present PV cells and PV temperature in the range of 200– daytime (while the PV module simultaneously supplies electric. the storage thermal(chemical) hybrid concept presented to be widely applica- of solar energy in previously described PVT systems based on heat ble with not only III-V solar cells. Li. position. 6). efficiency of the hybrid system stable even though temperature ity from solar energy accounts for approximately one quarter of the and pressure both change. Thus. technologies. the NSE effi- influence methanol conversion rate to syngas. the optimal 4. it is possible to keep the maximum NSE ies around three-quarters (73.. when pressure is in perature of the heaters and the reactor. To reveal the impact of the range of 2–11 bar. internal combustion engines or fuel cells) could further studies on materials (e. the energy is later released (e.. the NSE efficiency of the hybrid system. . the share of which var. while the efficiency curves start to peak at appropriate 4. respectively.429 Net solar-electric efficiency Optimal efficiency 0. and released when it is needed. This indicates that in the hybrid system. transported to where it is catalyst shall provide a broader and more solid basis for the PV- needed. According to Leest et al. from solar thermal energy. The major limiting factor of the system performance tion.9%). which is essentially a system operation strategy to coun- teract solar irradiation fluctuation. the energy storage via syngas. 8 in order Major thermodynamic parameters for methanol decomposition to better illustrate the impact of reaction temperature on effi- in the hybrid system. Y. For example.28 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 150 175 200 225 250 Pressure/bar Temperature/ Fig. catalysts) and reaction mecha- be used to quickly offset fluctuations in PV outputs during daytime. The developments of PV cell and be stored for a relatively long time. to generate the same amount of electricity. This implies that the influ- loss during combustion compared with direct methanol combus.3–76. Thus. as well as the tem. including temperature (related the reference system (Fig.36 r ba 0.375 11 0. It could therefore be envisaged that electricity by solar energy all day could be achieved by using solar with advances in materials science and chemical engineering. The same data set as in Fig.e. 7 module and thermal module (i.

PV electricity loss. 10 shows that the ratio of PV electricity at higher reaction pressures. by combining all analyses. therefore. Methanol recycling not only loss to solar energy input increases from 0% to 0. 0. the out- methanol flowing through the pump for the production of let temperature of the mixture of heat exchanger A is higher the same amount of syngas and thus the increase in both than the ambient temperature (e. changes of methanol pump exergy loss can be ignored. the pump work and exergy loss. On the other hand. 1. which results in the . 0. pump and syngas compressor. the efficiency declines as the tem. Theoretical net solar- 0. ing reaction pressure leads to the rise of energy (specifically sure leads to lower pressure ratio of the syngas compressor exergy) loss during the mixture heat recycling process and and thereby to less work consumption and less exergy loss. 10 (at 225 °C). Conclusions 0.43 Ratio to solar energy perature increases.g.40 0.e. the change 0. for it directly influences the vaporization tempera. the pump and compressor (P & C) tion. higher reaction pres.384 W. P&C exergy loss and heat exergy loss versus reaction (b) Reaction pressure affects the performance of methanol pressure at reaction temperature of 225 °C. Fig. Because evaporation heat accounts for a P&C Ex loss large part of the methanol-absorbed heat (30%).0 0. the changing trends of the pump exergy loss and compressor exergy loss Lastly.42 components of the system: 0. Exergy losses in methanol pump and syngas compressor versus reaction enhances the efficiency for two major reasons. Li. which results from the work thermal energy of the mixture is lost to the environment. 9. while the ratio of P & C the heat transfer temperature difference in the heat exergy loss decreases from 1. Fig. increas- compression work. the difference between the PV electricity at reaction pressure of ation of the pump and compressor as the reaction pressure 3 bar (i.2 ing conditions of the hybrid system. the sum of these losses exhibits a minimum at 7 bar and the shape of the curve is nearly opposite to that of the NSE efficiency.00 PV electricity loss of the vaporization temperature has a considerable effect on the average temperature of the heaters. exergy loss increases from 0% to 3. The optimal reaction temperature is deter- mined to be 225 °C and the optimal reaction pressure is 7 bar.. the reference system).4 thereby establishing the universality of the analysis methodology Compressor exergy loss and validity of the conclusions within the primary range of operat- Sum of them 1. Ratio to net solar electricity/% Pump exergy loss 1. Compared with the compressor exergy loss varia. which in turn lowers the PV and Pressure/bar solar collector efficiencies. 15 °C). Hao / Applied Energy 202 (2017) 377–385 unchanged with respect to variations in temperature. and when the pressure is as low as 1 bar. The PV electricity loss in Fig. such a combination significantly Fig. exergy loss is defined as the sum of the exergy loss in the methanol The sum of exergy losses of the pump and compressor decli. higher pressure leads to higher pressure ratio of methanol pump and lower methanol conversion rate. The exergy loss of the pumps/compressors is plotted versus reaction pressure in Fig. thus poses a negative impact on system performance. In brief. but also dissipates a considerable tion pressure increases from 3 bar to 23 bar.4 tion has been proposed and analyzed. 10. 10 to illustrate individual defined as the difference between the power consumption and combined influences of major irreversible factors on the sys- of the pumps/compressors and the exergy increase of the tem performance. more methanol is recycled ambient temperature.6 A novel hybridization between solar PV and solar thermochem- ical power generation modules integrating methanol decomposi- 0. the major exergy losses are are opposite.5%.4% when the reac- consumes pump work. as the reaction pressure increases.4% at operating temperature 0.41 heaters.4% to 0. Compared with conventional PV- 3 7 11 15 19 23 only systems. Y. This means that 3 7 11 15 19 23 higher methanol vaporization temperature leads to higher PV module temperature.8 5. On the other hand. as the exergy loss due to the temperature difference between the (c) Reaction pressure affects the degree of heat recovery in heat temperature of the cooled mixture of heat exchanger A and the exchangers.03 sure on system performance. further analysis is carried out on 0. 9 shows comparison between the exergy loss vari. difference between the actual compression work and ideal which leads to energy (exergy) loss. pump and syngas compressor. Our simula- tion results further show that the curve trends at all studied tem- 1.04 Ratio to solar energy input Net solar-electric efficiency Net solar-electric efficiency 0. which then results in more exchangers leads to exergy loss.6 peratures are similar to that presented in Fig..g. With respect to the latter.. As mentioned before.1%. As a result. the maximum PV electricity of this study) and that at changes. Fig. On one hand. The first reason is pressure at reaction temperature of 225 °C. In other words.01 Heat exergy loss ture of methanol. 10 is defined as fluid. 0.0 of 225 °C and pressure of 7 bar. To reveal the underlying reason of the impact of reaction pres. and the heat exergy loss is defined nes with increasing pressure. selected reaction pressure. the ratio of heat amount of heat to the ambient.2 electric efficiency of the hybrid system (after taking all major losses into account) reaches up to 45.02 Sum of all losses (a) Reaction pressure influences the average temperature of 0. PVT systems and thermochemical-only systems Pressure/bar (e. the ‘‘cascaded” utilization of solar energy.

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