Solar thermal collectors for use in hybrid solar-biomass power plants in India

  • Jonathan Nixon

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examined solar thermal collectors for use in alternative hybrid solar-biomass power plant applications in Gujarat, India. Following a preliminary review, the cost-effective selection and design of the solar thermal field were identified as critical factors underlying the success of hybrid plants. Consequently, the existing solar thermal technologies were reviewed and ranked for use in India by means of a multi-criteria decision-making method, the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP). Informed by the outcome of the AHP, the thesis went on to pursue the Linear Fresnel Reflector (LFR), the design of which was optimised with the help of ray-tracing. To further enhance collector performance, LFR concepts incorporating novel mirror spacing and drive mechanisms were evaluated. Subsequently, a new variant, termed the Elevation Linear Fresnel Reflector (ELFR) was designed, constructed and tested at Aston University, UK, therefore allowing theoretical models for the performance of a solar thermal field to be verified.
Based on the resulting characteristics of the LFR, and data gathered for the other hybrid system components, models of hybrid LFR- and ELFR-biomass power plants were developed and analysed in TRNSYS®. The techno-economic and environmental consequences of varying the size of the solar field in relation to the total plant capacity were modelled for a series of case studies to evaluate different applications: tri-generation (electricity, ice and heat), electricity-only generation, and process heat. The case studies also encompassed varying site locations, capacities, operational conditions and financial situations. In the case of a hybrid tri-generation plant in Gujarat, it was recommended to use an LFR solar thermal field of 14,000 m2 aperture with a 3 tonne biomass boiler, generating 815 MWh per annum of electricity for nearby villages and 12,450 tonnes of ice per annum for local fisheries and food industries. However, at the expense of a 0.3 ¢/kWh increase in levelised energy costs, the ELFR increased saving of biomass (100 t/a) and land (9 ha/a). For solar thermal applications in areas with high land cost, the ELFR reduced levelised energy costs. It was determined that off-grid hybrid plants for tri-generation were the most feasible application in India. Whereas biomass-only plants were found to be more economically viable, it was concluded that hybrid systems will soon become cost competitive and can considerably improve current energy security and biomass supply chain issues in India.
Date of Award20 Dec 2012
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPhilip A Davies (Supervisor) & Prasanta Dey (Supervisor)


  • Concentrating solar thermal power (CSP);
  • linear Fresnel reflector (LFR
  • multi-criteria decision-making (MCDM);
  • analytical hierarchy process (AHP)
  • exergy

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