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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.

The net solar-electric (NSE) efficiency of the solar metha- rejected from PV modules serves as a heat source for space. These facts.28. . could be utilized for version efficiency at relatively low temperatures. As a result.81% to 11.22] on PV temperature. it would be much more desirable for such systems to have effi.40) of ters [18.. the promotion of the hybrid system efficiency would be less power (CSP) exhibits similarly low or even lower efficiencies than 5% (rather than 11%). and solar irradiation [21. and conversion engines at low temperatures (e. transport (e.or nol decomposition system [33] is as high as 35% at a temperature water-heating [13. which is charac- mal utilization module. tems that combine PV modules and heat engines include negative irreversibilities) typically occur during capture (e. For the former. aiming at higher efficiencies beyond the reach nologies. (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. losses of the solar collector (including solar concentrator and cient single cells [4] then translates to 35. but the energy level of PV-rejected thermal energy Heat at 1300 A is also quite low. D Syngas C cient power generation as energy output. or to drive thermal power cycles. From the perspective of the ther. concentrated solar ation.4 with organic Rankine cycle (ORC) was carried out and the effi. The (e. CSP generation might achieve a synergistic effect between the stable power output is essential for solar energy utilization tech- two approaches. GaAs PV cells therefore. 1. However. from sunlight temperature coefficient of solar cells [8] and low efficiency of heat to heat). it combines a solar ther- DE A¼ ð1Þ mal driven.95) [21–23]. Heat at 200 ciency was enhanced from 9.83% [30]. Simulation of a hybrid system combining Si-based CPV 0. the concept of a hybrid power generation system 0. System efficiencies based on the first law of thermodynamics could reach as high as 60–80% [25. absorber) into account.36–0. [27] and analyzed by other researchers later [6. 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]. Fresnel lens. The photonic energy of sunlight (at a rela. of a process [10]: The idea of power generation with solar methanol decomposi- tion was first proposed by Hong and Jin.g. from heat to work) processes of solar energy. system energy effi- ciency. [31] expanded this concept aiming at the best sce- CPV) to enhance power generation performance and lower gener. heat [33–35]. 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.2% (practical efficiency). time).. out that the efficiency of 45% did not take the optical and heat the efficiency of a concentrated PV system consisting of 46.8 space.19]. however. PV cells are used as the thermal absorbing terized by high solar-electric efficiency and energy storage capac- layer [9].0% effi. meet the requirements. Most importantly. Methanol combustion: D ward by Chubb et al.e. it must be pointed the efficiency of a PV module to be 90% of that of a single cell [6]. 1).12]. frame shadow [24].6 Syngas combustion: C combining a heat engine and a photovoltaic module was put for. indispensable for the hybrid system. the low-energy level (0. but conventional PVT systems often fall short in this of using either one alone. A new energy. and exergy efficiency. In this study.e. but can also driving various thermal processes. low-temperature. either for direct heating purposes an appropriate form would be much more desirable. however. 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. By comparison. 12.. 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.378 W. are both than being converted directly to heat at a much lower energy level.. The basic rationale is that thermal respect due to the lack of an energy storage component. Theoretical and experimental studies were carried the perspective of physical energy utilization.g. Energy levels of methanol chemical energy. Y. a significant improvement compared with the effi- loss become inevitable factors that must be taken into account.g. PVT system) utilizes dissipated thermal energy term instabilities of solar irradiation through energy storage in from PV modules to supply heat. If we took these factors into consider- dissipated to the ambient. for the latter. The relatively low efficiency is mainly due to the low efficiency of the PV module Fig. methanol decom- out on the influences of PV cooling channel geometrical parame. from the perspective of the second law of thermodynam.16] and numerical of merely 230 °C. tively high energy level) is first converted to electricity rather which is also capable of easily storing thermal energy. Energy level 0. In such systems. efficiency ation cost. which. Tourkov et al.26]. Analytical studies [15. 140 °C).. PVT collector orientation [20]. cooling fluid flow rate solar thermal energy is converted to the high energy level (0. lead to a clear distinction between of the system combining a triple-junction PV cell and an ORC is cell efficiency and system efficiency. work in conjunction with concentrating optics (e. 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.14].3% for 150 °C [32]).g. mid-temperature (200 °C) endothermic DH decomposition reaction of methanol (CH3OH ? CO + 2H2. nario by combining the two technologies. From by experiments.29].85 [5] and ratio of 200 and temperature of 25 °C. ity. with heat transfer fluid)..g. A temperature-tolerant. 1. Hao / Applied Energy 202 (2017) 377–385 (instead of single cells). 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. Methanol decomposition: A. because not only the applicability of thermal energy is limited by many factors (e. a power generation module cesses could be reduced. but high-efficiency PV cells commonly ORC (due to the low temperature of the heat source. However. poses at 200 °C and above.g. the exergy loss of the collection and conversion pro. if the optical efficiency of solar collection is 0. high-efficiency PV module and a ing heat from the sun. high-efficiency solar thermal power module. B To this end. A photovoltaic/thermal hybrid smooth out influences by both transient fluctuations and long- solar system (i. cooling fluid temperature [23]. the module factor and optical as high as 45%. we propose a hybrid PVT system. For ciency of 34% of triple-junction PV cells at a solar concentration example.0 B Methanol ics. significantly impacts the which means that nearly two-thirds of the incident solar energy is performance of the system.. with the capability of generating electricity while collect.

which in this study.. decomposed into syngas by the dissipated heat from PV modules.g.g. fuel cells or other devices fueled by syngas. Sunlight is first concentrated by a trough solar concentrator. The solar thermal energy is then analysis of the hybrid system shows that the synergy between released at the syngas combustion temperature (e. methanol is sequen- up to 23. products as well as unreacted methanol. heat exchanger B. 3b). 2. 0. we hereby propose a hybrid PVT system (Figs.cell  gmod . ð4Þ where gT i . internal combustion engines. Schematic diagram of the hybrid system. 4) and a random one is selected for study. Temperature for Given the complementary characteristics of PV and thermo. [33]. 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.03 [33]) and thermal energy level (e. Description of the system 1300 °C). methanol decomposition in the hybrid system is 150–250 °C. Hao / Applied Energy 202 (2017) 377–385 379 chemical energy of syngas. can tolerate temperatures up to 250 °C [41]. it is given as: dQ abs ðT i Þ ¼ dQ tot ðT i Þ  gopt . methanol flows to the reactor. As for chemical energy lead to a win-win situation in terms of comprehensive generation utilization. The efficiency of the InP/InGaAs/Ge triple-junction PV module used in this study is given as [6]: gT i . 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. the system is so designed heat directly. One part of the absorbed sunlight is converted to electricity by the PV mod- ule. considerable irreversibility might still be B..PV is the PV module efficiency at Ti. Trickling out from heater ciency. a for up to 24 hours. 2 and 3a) hybrid system are InP/InGaAs/Ge triple-junction PV cells. Y. 2 and 3. surface of PV modules by trough concentrators. 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. the integration of thermochemistry into that syngas generated during daytime can last GSCC consumption a PVT system essentially adds energy storage capability as well. 1. W. Li.e. tion module with solar methanol decomposition. 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.37] leads to significant exergy losses due to the difference cussed shortly. In the hybrid system (Fig. heater Methanol solar thermochemistry makes it possible for low-level A. 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%. centralized power genera- approaches (e. the electrical power output is given as: dW PV ðT i Þ ¼ dQ abs ðT i Þ  gT i . which is the largest exergy loss in power generation sys- tems [38]. in which power generation. and con. However. integrating a GaAs PV module and a power genera. which however was usually not emphasized or even in this system could be replaced by internal combustion engines. Thermodynamic hybrid and reference systems.g. the latter is closer to (and yet still above) the energy respectively. the chemical components with respect to temperature and energy same as that in Ref. 0. 1300 °C with the PV and thermochemical power generation components could energy level of 0. Analytical methodology is introduced as a reference system (Fig. sunlight is focused onto the or whenever needed.6% of the exergy loss during methanol combustion [39]. which accounts for PV modules.95). ignored in previous PVT systems. The absorber tube is discretized into control volumes (Fig. (e. The GSCC operates at rated operation conditions feature very important for addressing the instability issue of solar unless the syngas supply is used up. ð3Þ where gT i . 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. Implications of key features of the novel system are dis- [36. and gmod is the ratio between the total PV module . 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 hybrid sys- posed above could use syngas-driven power generation tem might be suitable for a large-scale. The conceptual PVT system pro. tially pumped from its storage tank into heat exchanger A.. direct combustion of methanol for power generation efficiency. version of solar energy. while completely rely on syngas power generation at nighttime In the heaters (A and B) and reactor. Due to optical losses during concentration.cell is the individual InP/InGaAs/Ge triple-junction PV cell Fig. between chemical energy level of methanol (i. absorption. its temperature is denoted as Ti. 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. [33] 3. In the end. Thus.PV . in which a part of the methanol is incurred during key steps such as collection. Note that the GSCC employed energy. a solar thermochemical system similar to the system in Ref. and heater B. system with internal combustion engines/fuel cells.81) of the combustion products (at 2.PV ¼ gT i .81) for power generation.. In addition..g. efficiency at Ti. the PV component employed in the storage. or fuel cells) to tion plant with a GSCC and/or a distributed power generation quickly offset fluctuations in PV outputs during daytime [40]. To ensure the the low-efficiency dilemma of heat engines driven by PV-rejected storage capacity of the hybrid system. For comparison. only a part of the sun- light is absorbed by the PV modules. 3a).

Efficiencies of the PV cell in Ref.9) [6].cell ¼ gT i .298.370 200 0. Flow diagrams of (a) the hybrid system. according to Ref. are energy. (4) at different temperatures.389 150 0. [4. and DNI modules and flowing methanol. and (b) the reference system.380 W. Hao / Applied Energy 202 (2017) 377–385 Fig. the rest is lost to the environment via convection and thermal radiation. 3.314 125 0.380 175 0. The PV efficiencies of the PV cell is direct normal irradiance.333 75 0. and is given as: dQ diss ðT i Þ ¼ dQ abs ðT i Þ  ð1  gT i .304 .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 6 200.266 50 0.361 225 0. respectively. Li. the radiative heat loss.323 100 0.0 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. is given as [42]: Table 1 Table 2 Efficiencies of the PV cell in Ref. Diagram of energy transfer processes and energy balance on a selected control volume. dQ con. [4] at different temperatures.247 100 0. and DT is the temperature difference between PV where Ta is ambient temperature.342 50 0.351 250 0. Y. Fig. T i þ DT  T a 71:4 which is a default option in the following discussion if not men.313 175 0. efficiency and individual PV cell efficiency (0. ð5Þ methanol. the con- where gT i .238 125 0. The individual shown in Tables 1 and 2.285 250 0.322 150 0. The rest of the absorbed sun- PV cell efficiency at Ti is given as [6]: light is dissipated in the form of heat. Vwind is velocity of wind.275 25 0. [6]. [4]). Temperature (°C) PV efficiency Temperature (°C) PV efficiency Temperature (°C) PV efficiency Temperature (°C) PV efficiency 25 0.loss ðT i Þ ¼ dQ tot ðT i Þ  ða þ c  V wind Þ  . calculated by Eq.304 200 0.372 to approximate the PV cell in Ref. ð7Þ DNI C tioned or 0.257 75 0. C is solar con- centrating ratio.PV Þ ð6Þ gT i . Another part of the dissipated solar in Refs. As a part of the dissipated solar energy. [6] at different temperatures.294 225 0.6]. 4.

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

g.15 between the PV modules and solar thermochemical module and 0.4%. Fig. and reference systems and various components of electricity out.. According to Eq.70 obtained by taking advantage of the complementary nature 0.1.4% peak efficiency of the hybrid system already takes both factors into account. For the same amount of solar energy input.05 0. syngas) Methanol 0.42 exergy always lead to more electricity output and thus higher Electricity ratio efficiency.00 0. On the other hand. Solar thermal A comparison of the electricity generation between the tandem 0. the hybrid system is more than one-quarter higher than the PV- eters described above. 6).e.g.2% for the PV cells with 46. 5.40 Compared with the PV-only system. Li. which promotes low- 0. the electricity increment ratio (Eq.. a comparison between the Emissivity of PV modules (eab) 0. savings in 0. Performance of the hybrid system single-cell efficiency.80 0.4% of the hybrid system and the efficiency of Pressure ratio of gas turbine 17 46.2–42. the effi- Concentrating ratio (C) 80 Reaction pressure 3. the seemingly marginal difference between the Turbine inlet temperature 1250 °C NSE efficiency of 45.46 ratio reaches up to 49%.3  106 Pa ciency of the hybrid system could be further boosted from 42. Hao / Applied Energy 202 (2017) 377–385 Fig. However. the 45. 0.0% of the PV cells disguises the real difference in practically Fuel inlet pressure 2. 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. is also carried out. system-level) efficiency of 35.34 at the cost of even higher-level chemical energy (e.75 0. When taking both factors into account.9 and an optical efficiency of 0.9% to Reaction temperature 225 °C 45. 6. we reach a practically achievable (i.382 W.85 [5] (both multiplied to single-cell efficiency). the improvement is 0. hence.30 3 7 11 15 19 23 collector and amount of methanol being the same.38 0.36 the ‘‘leverage” effect (Fig.e.0  105–2. indicating that the hybrid system generates more composition of electricity of the hybrid system. 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 NSE effi- Absorptivity of PV modules (a) 1 ciency of 40. The NSE efficiency hybrid system is covered by PV modules.5% verted into electricity first and only the rest degrades to low- energy level heat. (20).9% and the system electricity efficiency of up to 54. Pressure/bar (19)) is in the range of 17–18% while the reaction pressure varies Fig. temperature is 225 °C and the reaction pressure is 7 bar.1. Parameters Value To evaluate the benefits of the concept of integration between DNI 800 W/m2 the PV-only and reference systems. Selected as the indicator.9% of the hybrid system is approximately one- Collector optical efficiency (gopt) 0.32 Solar PV hybrid system and parallel system (i. [6] when the reaction Summary of key parameters..4% of Numerical simulation is carried out with the model and param.0% efficiency PV cell [4] were used instead. methanol). The significant promotion in efficiency compared with the ref- put. 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. which results in the alleviation of exergy loss during sunlight collection and thus efficiency promotion in the hybrid system. the exergy loss reduction 0.10 level thermal energy to high-level chemical energy (e. Schematic diagram of the simulation model in Aspen Plus.0% 4. from 3 to 23 bar.73 fifth higher than that of 32. 1) of the latter.5 hybrid system and the reference system is performed.2%. This is mainly due to two reasons: . and 4. if a 46.0–35. Y. Table 3 are achieved using the PV cells from Ref.1. electricity than the parallel one. which inevitably incurs a modular Minimum heat transfer temperature difference (DT) 10 °C efficiency coefficient of 0. Efficiency promotion resulting from integration the true difference therefore is that the NSE efficiency of 45.5  106 Pa Ambient temperature (Ta) 15 °C achievable efficiencies at the system level.9% of the reference system Velocity of wind (Vwind) 4 m/s (Fig. a PV-only system and a Methanol methanol-only system arranged in parallel).. 6 shows the NSE efficiency of the hybrid only system efficiency of 35. with the area of the 0. Net solar-to-electric efficiency of the hybrid and reference systems. sunlight is con- of up to 42.44 system.

the latest studies by Ma et al. the electricity from solar energy in requirements on system operation. 250 °C might also be reasonable considering advancement in PV ity). the solar energy stored in temperature for methanol decomposition to occur at respectable syngas is relatively stable. efficiency of the hybrid system stable even though temperature ity from solar energy accounts for approximately one quarter of the and pressure both change.. pressures versus the reaction temperature.425 ar 3b 0.g.450 0. the NSE effi- influence methanol conversion rate to syngas. To reveal the impact of the range of 2–11 bar. as well as the tem. According to Leest et al. while the efficiency curves start to peak at appropriate 4. is plotted in Figs. 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. which results in a lower exergy sures remains quite stable (i. the in the PV-only system. even if considered. This means that syngas-driven power generation would then primarily shift to the kinetic side. ence of temperature variation can be offset by changing the tion system.. 7). This means that the hybrid system needs less fossil fuel without sacrificing system performance. technologies.g. and released when it is needed. ciency. 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. 7 is presented in a different manner in Fig. 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. 7 module and thermal module (i.2. catalysts) and reaction mecha- be used to quickly offset fluctuations in PV outputs during daytime. methanol decomposition) as and 8. On the other hand. W..275 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 efficiency of the hybrid system at the lowest temperature of 150 °C monotonically declines with the increase of pressure (Fig. Y. In contrast. This implies that the influ- loss during combustion compared with direct methanol combus. 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. 8.28 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 150 175 200 225 250 Pressure/bar Temperature/ Fig.429 Net solar-electric efficiency Optimal efficiency 0.325 ba 0. ciency increases as temperature increases. the NSE efficiency of the hybrid system. The developments of PV cell and be stored for a relatively long time.2. Thus. respectively.1. as 0..375 11 0. including temperature (related the reference system (Fig. 7 and 8.3–76.400 7b ar 1bar b 0. Thus. Impact of reaction pressure and temperature pressures in the temperature range of 175–250 °C. 3b) only accounts for 16% of the total to solar energy collection) and pressure (related to pump work).6% in Fig. it is possible to keep the maximum NSE ies around three-quarters (73. By comparison. Li. with PV cells operating at 200 °C for 1320 h. the optimal 4.36 r ba 0. The major limiting factor of the system performance tion. [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. (2) the methanol in the hybrid system is optimal NSE efficiencies for different reaction temperatures/pres- decomposed before combustion. transported to where it is catalyst shall provide a broader and more solid basis for the PV- needed. 42. The same data set as in Fig. which is essentially a system operation strategy to coun- teract solar irradiation fluctuation. which implies that the solar energy can rates could be further lowered. 7. 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. internal combustion engines or fuel cells) could further studies on materials (e.9%). 8 in order Major thermodynamic parameters for methanol decomposition to better illustrate the impact of reaction temperature on effi- in the hybrid system. but other types of solar cells as engines was not explicitly considered. 6). from solar thermal energy. For example.e. which might inspire approaches (e. 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. solar well. which makes it possible to lower the total electricity. no significant that the electricity from the PV modules approximately equals that influences on the GaAs structure and PV efficiency are observed.e.300 175 225 ba 23 200 250 0. . to generate the same amount of electricity. opposed to being only used in a cascaded way by the PV module As can be observed from the dashed lines in Figs. position. the share of which var. This indicates that in the hybrid system..350 15 r 0. the goal of steadily supplying Pt/a-MoC catalyst at 150 °C. It is also noteworthy [46].44 Optimal efficiency Net solar-electric efficiency 0. when pressure is in perature of the heaters and the reactor. including reaction pressure and temperature. In other words. nisms. Net solar-to-electric efficiency of the hybrid system at different reaction temperatures versus reaction pressure. while the electric. by GSCC) for power genera. the energy storage via syngas. Net solar-to-electric efficiency of the hybrid system at different reaction Fig. electricity.g. pressure. Furthermore. the energy is later released (e.32 19 150 r 0. When pressure is in the range of 15–23 bar.40 ar 2bar 0.

The exergy loss of the pumps/compressors is plotted versus reaction pressure in Fig. Compared with conventional PV- 3 7 11 15 19 23 only systems. Li. 0. increas- compression work. selected reaction pressure. which then results in more exchangers leads to exergy loss. 1.42 components of the system: 0. the changing trends of the pump exergy loss and compressor exergy loss Lastly.2 electric efficiency of the hybrid system (after taking all major losses into account) reaches up to 45.e. Methanol recycling not only loss to solar energy input increases from 0% to 0.384 W. 0. pump and syngas compressor. 15 °C). such a combination significantly Fig. pump and syngas compressor. PV electricity loss. 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.40 0.4 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. 10 shows that the ratio of PV electricity at higher reaction pressures. Conclusions 0. the pump work and exergy loss.g. Fig. 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.04 Ratio to solar energy input Net solar-electric efficiency Net solar-electric efficiency 0. which in turn lowers the PV and Pressure/bar solar collector efficiencies. therefore. which results in the . the ‘‘cascaded” utilization of solar energy. difference between the actual compression work and ideal which leads to energy (exergy) loss.43 Ratio to solar energy perature increases. Y. for it directly influences the vaporization tempera.01 Heat exergy loss ture of methanol. PVT systems and thermochemical-only systems Pressure/bar (e. This means that 3 7 11 15 19 23 higher methanol vaporization temperature leads to higher PV module temperature. In brief. as the reaction pressure increases. Ratio to net solar electricity/% Pump exergy loss 1.. the change 0.5%. further analysis is carried out on 0. while the ratio of P & C the heat transfer temperature difference in the heat exergy loss decreases from 1. 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. Exergy losses in methanol pump and syngas compressor versus reaction enhances the efficiency for two major reasons. 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. 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. the difference between the PV electricity at reaction pressure of ation of the pump and compressor as the reaction pressure 3 bar (i. 9. 9 shows comparison between the exergy loss vari. Fig.0 of 225 °C and pressure of 7 bar.4% at operating temperature 0. the maximum PV electricity of this study) and that at changes. higher reaction pres.41 heaters. Theoretical net solar- 0. 0.4 tion has been proposed and analyzed. As a result.8 5.1%.03 sure on system performance. On one hand.00 PV electricity loss of the vaporization temperature has a considerable effect on the average temperature of the heaters. 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.6 A novel hybridization between solar PV and solar thermochem- ical power generation modules integrating methanol decomposi- 0.0 0. but also dissipates a considerable tion pressure increases from 3 bar to 23 bar. by combining all analyses. the reference system). 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. On the other hand.4% to 0.02 Sum of all losses (a) Reaction pressure influences the average temperature of 0.. In other words. With respect to the latter. Fig. Compared with the compressor exergy loss varia. The first reason is pressure at reaction temperature of 225 °C. the major exergy losses are are opposite. higher pressure leads to higher pressure ratio of methanol pump and lower methanol conversion rate. 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. and the heat exergy loss is defined nes with increasing pressure. 10. 10 is defined as fluid. To reveal the underlying reason of the impact of reaction pres. Our simula- tion results further show that the curve trends at all studied tem- 1.6 peratures are similar to that presented in Fig. which results from the work thermal energy of the mixture is lost to the environment.2 ing conditions of the hybrid system. Because evaporation heat accounts for a P&C Ex loss large part of the methanol-absorbed heat (30%). thus poses a negative impact on system performance. the efficiency declines as the tem. the ratio of heat amount of heat to the ambient. Hao / Applied Energy 202 (2017) 377–385 unchanged with respect to variations in temperature. changes of methanol pump exergy loss can be ignored. and when the pressure is as low as 1 bar. 10 (at 225 °C). As mentioned before. more methanol is recycled ambient temperature. On the other hand..4% when the reac- consumes pump work. The PV electricity loss in Fig. the pump and compressor (P & C) tion.g.

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