Exergetic Analysis of Hybrid Power Plants with Biomass and Photovoltaics Coupled with Intermediate Temperature Steam Electrolysis 

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Fontina Petrakopoulou, National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), Marousi Athens, Greece and Javier Sanz, IMDEA Energy Institute, Móstoles, Spain
Steam electrolysis is a promising process of large-scale centralized hydrogen production, while it is also considered an excellent option for the efficient use of renewable solar and geothermal energy resources. This work studies the operation of an intermediate temperature steam electrolyzer (ITSE) and its incorporation into hybrid power plants that include biomass combustion and photovoltaic panels (PV). The plants generate both electricity and hydrogen.

The reference –biomass– power plant and four variations of a hybrid biomass-PV incorporating the reference biomass plant and the ITSE are simulated and evaluated using exergetic analysis. The variations of the hybrid power plants are associated with (1) the air recirculation from the electrolyzer to the biomass power plant, (2) the elimination of the sweep gas of the electrolyzer, (3) the replacement of two electric heaters with gas/gas heat exchangers, and (4) the replacement two heat exchangers of the reference electrolyzer unit with one heat exchanger that uses steam from the biomass power plant. In all cases, 60% of the electricity required in the electrolyzer is covered by the biomass plant and 40% by the photovoltaic panels.

When comparing the hybrid plants with the reference biomass power plant that has identical operation and structure as that incorporated in the hybrid plants, we observe an efficiency decrease that varies depending on the scenario. The efficiency decrease stems mainly from the low effectiveness of the photovoltaic panels (14.4%). When comparing the hybrid scenarios, we see that the elimination of the sweep gas decreases the power consumption due to the elimination of the compressor used to cover the pressure losses of the filter, the heat exchangers and the electrolyzer. Nevertheless, if the sweep gas is used to preheat the air entering the boiler of the biomass power plant, the efficiency of the plant increases. When replacing the electric heaters with gas-gas heat exchangers, the efficiency of the plant increases, although the higher pressure losses of the flue-gas path increase the requirements of the air compressor. Finally, replacing the two heat exchangers of the electrolyzer unit with one that uses extracted steam from the biomass power plant can lead to an overall decrease in the operating and investment costs of the plant.