In order to maintain viability as a future power-generating technology, concentrating solar power (CSP) must reduce its levelized cost of electricity (LCOE). One component of solving this problem is reducing the cost of the power block while simultaneously increasing the efficiency of the thermodynamic cycle. One disruptive technology that has the promise to accomplish this is supercritical CO2 based power cycles. These cycles are conceptually similar to steam cycles; however, they have substantially smaller turbomachinery at equivalent power while also delivering more efficiency at turbine inlet temperatures of 500–700°C. This paper will summarize the current status of a US Department of Energy project to develop machinery to support a 10 MW sCO2 power cycle. The team of Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) and Hanwha Power Systems America, proposed to develop an integrally-geared (IG) compressor-expander (compander) for use in a nominal 10 MW-scale CSP supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) plant application. This integrally-geared compander (IGC) comprises multiple pinion shafts interconnected on a single bull gear to create a compact package, and utilizes a low-cost, low-speed driver. In addition, the integrally-geared architecture allows each pinion to operate at different rotational speeds to optimize performance and easily allow for inter-stage cooling and turbine re-heat to further enhance both stage and cycle efficiency. The close integration of all turbomachinery elements into a single integrally-geared (IG) machine creates a design that lends itself to power block modularization, which makes it suitable for waste heat recovery, fossil fuel power plants, and especially CSP applications. As part of the commercialization of this technology, it is necessary to reduce risk by validation testing of key components. In the current work, the focus is developing a test loop to enable safe testing of the main compressor stage across a wide range of operating conditions, and to validate the mechanical integrity of the turbine at full pressure, temperature, and speed. Developing a test loop for sCO2 requires balancing a number of design alternatives that impact cost, lead time, safety, and performance. The current work discusses the design process for the reduced flow test loop for the compander.

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