Experimental Assessment of a Multi-Variable Control Strategy of a Micro-Cogeneration Solar-ORC Plant for Domestic Application
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Suitability to off-design operation, applicability to combined thermal and electrical generation in a wide range of low temperatures and pressures and compliance with safety and environmental limitations qualify small-scale Organic Rankine Cycle plants as a viable option for combined heat and power generation in the residential sector. As the plants scale down, the electric and thermal output maximization has to account for issues, spanning from high pump power absorption, compared to the
... ic output of the plant, to intrinsically low plant permeability induced by the expander, to the intermittent availability of thermal power, affected by the heat demand for domestic hot water (DHW) production. The present paper accounts for a flat-plate solar thermal collector array, bottomed by an ORC unit featuring a sliding vane expander and pump and flat-plate heat exchangers. A high-temperature buffer vessel stores artificially heated water – electric heaters, simulating the solar collector - and feeds either the hot water line for domestic use or the ORC evaporator, depending on the instantaneous demand (i.e., domestic hot water or electric power), the temperature conditions inside the tank and the stored mass availability. A low-temperature receiver acts like the heat sink of the ORC unit and harvests the residual thermal power, downstream the expander: a dedicated control, modelled to properly modulate the mass addition/subtraction to this storage unit allows to restore the operating points of the cycle and to limit the incidence of off-design operation, via real-time adjustment of the cycle operating parameters. Indeed, the possibility of continuous ORC generation depends on (i) the nature of the demand and (ii) the amount of hot water withdrawn from the high-temperature buffer vessel. The time-to-temperature for the mass stored inside the buffer affects the amount of ORC unit activations and eventually the maximum attainable generation of electric energy. The plant energy performance is experimentally assessed, and various characteristic operating points are mapped, based on test runs carried out on a real-scale ORC pilot unit.