Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department



Falta, Ronald W

Committee Member

Castle , James W

Committee Member

Murdoch , Lawrence C


Solar thermal energy is taking up increasing proportions of future power generation worldwide. Thermal energy storage technology is a key method for compensating for the inherent intermittency of solar resources and solving the time mismatch between solar energy supply and electricity demand. However, there is currently no cost-effective high-capacity compact storage technology available (Bakker et al., 2008). The goal of this work is to propose a high temperature subsurface thermal energy storage (HSTES) technology and demonstrate its potential energy storage capability by developing a solar-HSTES-electricity generation system. In this work, main elements of the proposed system and their related state-of-art technologies are reviewed. A conceptual model is built to illustrate the concept, design, operating procedure and application of such a system. A numerical base model is built within the TOUGH2-EOS1 multiphase flow simulator for the evaluation of system performance. Additional models are constructed and simulations are done to identify the effect of different operational and geological influential factors on the system performance. Our work shows that when the base model is run with ten years operation of alternate injection and production processes - each for a month - with a thermal power input of 10.85 MW, about 83% of the injected thermal energy could be recovered within each working cycle from a stabilized HSTES system. After the final conversion into electrical energy, a relative (compared with the direct use of hot water) electricity generation efficiency of 73% is obtained. In a typical daily storage scenario, the simulated thermal storage efficiency could exceed 78% and the relative electricity generation efficiency is over 66% in the long run. In a seasonal storage scenario, these two efficiencies reach 69% and 53% respectively by the end of the simulation period of 10 years. Additional simulations reveal a thinner storage aquifer with a higher horizontal-to-vertical permeability ratio is favored by the storage system. A basin-shape reservoir is more favored than a flat reservoir, while a flat reservoir is better than a dome-shape reservoir. The effect of aquifer stratification is variable: it depends on the relative position of the well screen and the impermeable lenses within the reservoir. From the operational aspect, the well screen position is crucial and properly shortening the screen length can help heat recovery. The proportion of the injection/storage/recovery processes within a cycle, rather than their exact lengths, affects the storage efficiency. Reservoir preheating helps improve the energy storage efficiency for the first several cycles. However, it does not contribute much to the system performance in the long run. Simulations also indicate that buoyancy effect is of significant importance in heat distribution and the plume migration. Reducing the gravity override effect of the heat plume could be an important consideration in efficiency optimization.