The Strategic Importance of Thermodynamic Solar Plants

In two previous articles, we stressed the importance of using renewable energy sources. In particular, we referred to Organic Rankine Cycle, and the use of geothermal energy.

In this post, we'll talk about another very important source of energy: the one from solar radiations.

When we talk about solar energy, we often refer to the thermal or photovoltaic panels mounted on rooftops to generate electricity or hot water for households.

Although the contribution of these systems to the reduction of C02 emissions is quite important, an even bigger role will come from solar energy in the industrial sector, where a different type of solar panels are used, called thermodynamic.

The main difference between photovoltaic and thermodynamic solar panels, is that while the first convert solar radiations directly into energy, the latter are able to concentrate heat through a system of reflecting mirrors. Heat can then be stored and used even when the sun is not present, for example during the night, or when the sky is clouded.

With thermodynamic solar technology, the production of energy is much more regular and it can reach temperatures up to 600°C.

The 2050 Roadmap

The International Energy Agency is particularly interested in solar energy as an alternative source for the production of electricity as a way to reduce global warming.

A roadmap to 2050 was created, with different scenarios, according to the below chart.

global electricity mix

The first column shows the current breakdown of sources for the production of electricity. As we can see, only 20% of energy comes from renewable sources.

The second column is a projection of the current trend into 2050. In this scenario, the global energy demand will increase, as well as the use of fossil fuel. The result is a catastrophic increase of Earth’s temperature by 6°C.

In the two following scenarios, the use of fossil fuel is eliminated. In the first one (third column), by bringing the use of renewable energies to 65%, we could reach the target of 2°C increase, the highest possible to avoid very negative consequences on life on Earth.

In the second scenario, the same target can be reached with a higher part of renewable sources (79%), which would create a much lower requirement for nuclear power.

Cividac and renewable energies

An important step in the production of energy in a thermodynamic solar plant is when the heat is transformed into electric power through the ORC cycle.

In Italy, one of the main companies in the ORC sector is Turboden. Cividac collaborated with Turboden for the project of a thermodynamic solar energy plant in Hawaii with the supply of different parts, such as pre-heaters, evaporators, condensers and regenerators.