The role of renewable energies and in particular solar energy could be fundamental in future scenarios of worldwide increase of energy demand: thermodynamic solar energy can play an important role in country with high solar radiation. This paper discusses the development and testing of an innovative code for the prediction of thermodynamic performances at nominal conditions and the estimation of costs of the whole plant, for different parabolic trough solar fields. The code allows a preliminary design of the solar field lay-out, the sizing of the main components of the plant and the optimization of the steam cycle. The code, named PATTO (PArabolic Trough Thermodynamic Optimization), allows to separately calculate the thermal efficiency of (i) parabolic trough systems in commerce as well as (ii) combination of components of various commercial systems, in order to exploit different technology solutions: combination of mirrors, receivers and supports. Using the selected parabolic troughs, the plant configuration is then completed by connecting pipes, heat exchangers, the steam cycle, and storage tanks. The code is also flexible in terms of working fluid, temperature and pressure range. Regarding the power block, a conventional steam cycle with super-heater and re-heater sections and up to seven regenerative bleedings is adopted. It is possible to use also simpler configuration as without re-heater or with less regenerative bleedings. Moreover, thanks to simple or sophisticated economic correlations depending on available data, the code calculates the overall investment cost for the considered solar field and the power block. The code performs steady state analysis at nominal conditions, while future developments are planned regarding part load analysis and transient simulations. The model is tested towards real applications and reference values found in literature; in particular, focusing on SEGS VI plant in the USA. Detailed results showing code potentiality, are presented in terms of solar field and power block energy balances, plant auxiliaries, piping and economic analysis.

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