Molten-salt thermocline tanks are a low-cost option for thermal energy storage in concentrating solar power systems. A review of previous experimental and numerical thermocline tank studies is performed to identify key issues associated with tank design and performance. Published models have shown that tank discharge performance improves with both larger tank height and smaller internal filler diameter due to increased thermal stratification and sustained outflow of molten salt with high thermal quality. For well-insulated (adiabatic) tanks, low molten-salt flow rates reduce the axial extent of the heat-exchange region and increase discharge efficiency. Under nonadiabatic conditions, low flow rates become detrimental to stratification due to the development of fluid recirculation zones inside the tank. For such tanks, higher flow rates reduce molten-salt residence time inside the tank and improve discharge efficiency. Despite the economic advantages of a thermocline tank, thermal ratcheting of the tank wall remains a significant design concern. The potential for thermal ratcheting is reduced through the inclusion of an internal thermal insulation layer between the molten salt and tank wall to diminish temperature oscillations along the tank wall. Future research directions are also pointed out, including combined analyses that consider the solar receiver and power generation blocks as well as optimization between performance and economic considerations.


concentrating solar thermal power, thermocline tank, molten salt

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S. M. Flueckiger, Z. Yang, and S. V. Garimella, “Design of Molten-Salt Thermocline Tanks for Solar Thermal Energy Storage,” Heat Transfer Engineering, Vol. 34, No. 10, pp. 787-800, 2013.