In this paper the integration of vegetable oil-fed reciprocating engines with solar thermal collector is investigated, seeking to design a novel polygeneration system producing: electricity, space heating and cooling and domestic hot water, for a university building located in Naples (Italy), assumed as case study. The polygeneration system is based on the following main components: concentrating parabolic trough solar collector, double-stage LiBr–H2O absorption chiller and a reciprocating engine fed by vegetable oil. The engine operates at full load producing electrical energy which is in part consumed by the building lights and equipments, in part used by the system passive loads and the rest is eventually sold to the grid. In fact, the engine is grid connected in order to perform a convenient net metering. The system was designed and then simulated by means of a zero-dimensional transient simulation model, developed using the TRNSYS software. The simulation tool developed by the authors allows one to analyze the results for different time basis (minutes, days, weeks, months and years), from both energetic and economic points of view. The economic results show that the system under investigation is profitable, especially if properly funded.
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