Wednesday 7 January 2015

Large-Scale Power Plants Based On Thermoelectric Effects

Large Scale Energy Plants – Generate Electricity Efficiently

New study shows that large scale energy plants using thermoelectric effects like temperature differences in ocean water can generate electricity efficiently at lower costs than solar power plants. According to researchers, these ocean based plants could resemble huge barges which float in tropical oceans that generate electricity using shallow water warmed by the sun to heat cold water which is brought up from the depths.

A paper which had been published in the New Journal of Physics and authored by Liping Liu, Associate Professor of Rutgers University,has analysed the feasibility of these types of floating power plants. Liu has informed that the function is regarding the new notion of big scale green power plants which make financial use of the biggest accessible as well as sustainable power reservoir on the earth. It is due to the heating of the sun on the water surface to a temperature which in tropical regions would be 20 K greater than water 600 m deep.

 The surface water, usually acts as a giant storage tank of solar power. He further explains that the thermoelectric energy plants could perform by harvesting power of ocean waves and pump cold water from some of hundred meters deep up through a long channel.

Heat Exchanger – Electric Generator

When the cold water reaches the surface it enters a heat exchanger and is heated by the surface water on the outside where the heat exchangers acts like a electric generator since its tubes are made of thermoelectric material which can transfer heat through its walls and can convert temperature variations in electrical energy.

The ocean based thermoelectric energy plant has a few advantages where for a single, the fuel or temperature differences, are cost free, simply accessible and unlimited. Moreover, the plant does not take up much space on land and have no moving solid parts with low maintenance fees. Besides this, the approach is green since it does not have any emissions.

Small scale thermoelectric generators are presently used commercially for applications like microelectronics, energy generation in remote areas and automobiles. In these cases, the conversion efficiency is an important aspect since the fuel accounts for biggest part of the price.

Commercial devices have conversion efficiency of about five to ten percent of the Carnot efficiency together with state of the art devices targeting efficiencies of about twenty percent though investigation is on its way to completion of additional strengthening the efficiency and there are limits of how higher it could go.

Fuel without Cost/Unlimited Supply

Liu, in the new paper, has showed that the significant scale thermoelectric power plants need not operate at exceptional high efficiencies in order to be economically competitive as alternative, but would depend on engineering uncomplicated structures like laminated composite for mass production support.

Improvements have been aimed on conversion capacity when compared to efficiency and can be improved with regards to orders of magnitude. Since the fuel is available at no cost together with unlimited supply, large scale thermoelectric energy plants could cope up with their size to what they may lack in efficiency.

The cost of creating electricity differs by supply and according to US Department of Power, the yearly expenses of one megawatt of electricity in 2016 is estimated at about $83 million for standard coal plants when compared to $1,84 million for photovoltaic power plants.

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