Optimization of Hybrid Electric Power Generation System

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Sponsor: Austin Energy

Date: Summer 2008


The HEPGS must generate 100 MW of electricity for 6 hours. Current U.S. industry standard 1.5 MW wind turbines are proposed to compress ambient air to be stored in an unspecified natural cavern. Simultaneously, a solar field will collect and store thermal energy. The compressed air will be preheated by the stored solar energy before being passed through a turboexpander for power generation. The storage pressure of the compressed air was specified to be 70 bar. This air will be preheated to temperatures in the range of 200-1000 °C.


With growing environmental awareness and the increase in the prices of hydrocarbon fuels, reliable and sustainable energy alternatives are critical for large scale applications. The objective of this project was to optimize a hybrid electric power generation system (HEPGS), integrating two such alternatives, wind and solar energy, through compressed air and thermal storage to deliver cost effective peak time energy.


During the optimization process, three important problems were addressed. First and foremost, the team determined the most cost effective turboexpander inlet temperature. Secondly, a comparison of centralized and decentralized compression indicated which method is most efficient. Finally, the team optimized the air compression and solar thermal collection and storage to determine if a HEPGS can be cost competitive with current energy methods.

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