Today, the combination of global warming and volatile conventional fuel prices are key factors in driving investment in electricity generation plants based on the concentrated solar power (CSP) technology. With several major projects proposed, under construction or recently entering service, there is finally a strong chance that CSP technology can become a part of the mainstream, alongside wind, hydro and solar photovoltaic technologies, as a key source of renewable energy for the future. However, given that most CSP plants need to be located in hot arid areas (due to the need for high direct solar intensity) and that CSP plant permits, plans and cooling processes rely on access to and planned use of water, the availability of water could be a limiting factor in CSP plant planning and installation process. Therefore, the cooling technology to be integrated in a CSP plant can be critical in the feasibility of the plant, and its effects on plant performance and water usage need to be understood prior to the plant’s implementation. In this work, an overview of the effects of cooling system integration on Rankine cycle based CSP plant performance is provided. Specifically, the performance of parabolic trough, solar tower and Fresnel CSP plants is compared based on the cooling technology integrated in each plant’s Rankine steam cycle. The comparison is performed across four significant factors of a CSP plant’s performance which are the overall plant water requirements, the plant efficiency, the plant capital cost and the plant electricity unit cost.
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