Numerical Study of Local/Regional Atmospheric Changes Caused by a Large Solar Central Receiver Power Plant

Chandrakant M. Bhumralkar SRI International, Menlo Park, CA 94025

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Arthur J. Slemmons SRI International, Menlo Park, CA 94025

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Kenneth C. Nitz SRI International, Menlo Park, CA 94025

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Abstract

A two-dimensional, vertical cross section, numerical atmospheric mesoscale model has been applied to study the potential local/regional atmospheric effects of the installation of a 100 MWe solar thermal central receiver power plant at Barstow, California. Such a plant consists of heliostats (mirrors) which cover a portion of ground surface and reflect sunlight onto a central receiving tower. The model can simulate the changes in surface characteristics associated with the installation of heliostats and other power plant ancillaries, and can simulate the effects of waste heat from cooling towers. The model equations have been integrated to simulate typical summer, and atypical summer.

The results for typical summer conditions at Barstow and the surrounding region show that the power plant has the potential to increase local humidity and wind circulation but cannot induce the formation of clouds or rain. The results for atypical summer conditions show that the solar power plant has the potential to increase the wind circulation and to form clouds and rain. However, the life cycle of such formations is only 2–3 h.

Sensitivity to the type and location of cooling tower has been tested and described. The atmospheric effects of a dry cooling tower located upwind are not as significant and intense as those produced using a wet cooling tower. However, this result is not conclusive and should be researched further. The effect of a wet cooling tower located at the downwind edge of the power plant is not as intense as is the case when the tower is located at the upwind edge of the power plant.

Abstract

A two-dimensional, vertical cross section, numerical atmospheric mesoscale model has been applied to study the potential local/regional atmospheric effects of the installation of a 100 MWe solar thermal central receiver power plant at Barstow, California. Such a plant consists of heliostats (mirrors) which cover a portion of ground surface and reflect sunlight onto a central receiving tower. The model can simulate the changes in surface characteristics associated with the installation of heliostats and other power plant ancillaries, and can simulate the effects of waste heat from cooling towers. The model equations have been integrated to simulate typical summer, and atypical summer.

The results for typical summer conditions at Barstow and the surrounding region show that the power plant has the potential to increase local humidity and wind circulation but cannot induce the formation of clouds or rain. The results for atypical summer conditions show that the solar power plant has the potential to increase the wind circulation and to form clouds and rain. However, the life cycle of such formations is only 2–3 h.

Sensitivity to the type and location of cooling tower has been tested and described. The atmospheric effects of a dry cooling tower located upwind are not as significant and intense as those produced using a wet cooling tower. However, this result is not conclusive and should be researched further. The effect of a wet cooling tower located at the downwind edge of the power plant is not as intense as is the case when the tower is located at the upwind edge of the power plant.

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