Industry Dynamics



Tower photothermal power generation with ceramic particles as medium provides energy for pasta factory


Producing delicious pasta requires wheat, water and energy. Researchers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are studying ways to provide sustainable power for industrial production and drying processes, with the goal of reducing the carbon footprint in pasta production. DLR is currently working with partners, including Barilla, the world's largest pasta producer, to jointly develop the EU project - high storage density photothermal power generation project (Hiflex) for flexible energy systems.

Figure: pilot project of EU Hiflex project

Over the next two years, DLR will establish a unique energy supply system near the Barilla pasta factory in Foggia, southern Italy. Hiflex project partners will use the facility to prove that they can use renewable resources for power generation and heating around the clock, and provide reliable and flexible power and heat in the production process.

"The purpose of the project is not only to prove the feasibility of the technology, but also to prove the commercial feasibility of the technology," said Gabriele Bertoni, the overall project manager of dynamics technology, an Italian partner, when describing the grand goal of the project.


Ceramic particles will be used as heat transfer and storage medium in tower solar photothermal power generation project

It is understood that the tower solar thermal power generation project is the core of the pilot system. About 500 movable heliostats focus the sunlight on the heat absorber at the top of the heat absorption tower to heat the heat absorption medium; The medium used in the heat absorber is ceramic particles with a diameter of only 1mm. After heating the ceramic particles to a temperature of 1000 ℃, the high-temperature particles are stored in an insulated storage tank. When electricity or heat is needed, steam will be generated from the heat stored in granular ceramics for power generation or industrial process heating. This storage means that optical thermal power stations can provide energy at night. Once the ceramic particles release heat and cool down, they are transferred to a second tank and sent to the heat absorber for reheating.

In addition, the Hiflex project team has also designed solutions for periods of low sunshine intensity. Miriam Ebert of DLR solar energy research institute said: "we can also use renewable energy such as wind power and solar power, or biogas to heat ceramic particles."

"The Hiflex project gives us the opportunity to try innovative ways to provide renewable energy for pasta plants, and we have started using solar energy to produce pasta," said Luca Ruini, vice president of health, safety, environment and energy of Barilla.

Flexible, schedulable and sustainable Hiflex concept

Miriam Ebert said, "The Hiflex system has several advantages. First, it has a high degree of flexibility and can provide electricity and heat at different temperatures for industrial processes on a completely sustainable basis. In addition, storing excess energy in the form of ceramic particles can improve the stability of the power grid and compensate for power source fluctuations; compared with storage batteries, ceramic particles have cost-effectiveness in storing heat."

Photothermal power generation with energy storage can increase the flexibility of power and heat, which is very important for future energy supply. It can solve the fluctuation and intermittence of heat and power produced by renewable energy such as wind power or photovoltaic power generation.

DLR heat absorber is the core component of tower photothermal power generation pilot project

For the construction and operation of the tower solar photothermal power generation pilot project, DLR will use its extensive expertise in the fields of solar thermal power generation systems, steam generators and materials; In addition, the Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics (steam generator concept) and the Institute of materials (particle Development) also participated in the project. Private sector partner helioheat is providing centrec solar heat sink as a key component of the Hiflex system, which has been developed and patented at DLR.

Molten salt is generally used as heat transfer medium in commercial tower solar photothermal power plants. "Our method is based on ceramic particles because of their affordable temperature and low cost. Another factor is that they are easier to store and transport than liquid salts, which solidify when the temperature drops." Ebert summarized the advantages of solar photothermal power generation using ceramic particles as the medium.

It is reported that this special solar heat absorber has been successfully tested on the DLR heat absorption tower of its J ü Lich project. Once the heat absorber is delivered to Italy in 2021, the solar photothermal power generation project will start operation.

Eleven partners from seven are working on the Hiflex project. They are (in alphabetical order): Barilla (Italy), duermeier (Germany), German Aerospace Center (Germany), helioheat (Germany), indygotech minerals (Poland), John Cockerill (Belgium), kinetics technology / next chem (Italy), quantis (Switzerland), sugimat (Spain) and tekfen (Turkey).

The EU will be part of the "Horizon 2020 research and Innovation Framework Plan" and provide 13.5 million euros of support. DLR technology marketing is investing more money.


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