A Non-Intrusive Optical (NIO) Approach to Characterize Heliostats in Utility-Scale Power Tower Plants: Sensitivity Study

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Abstract

Power towers, a type of concentrating power tower technology, use a large number of heliostats to concentrate sunlight and produce renewable energy. Optical errors of heliostats can cause drastic losses in the efficiency of power-tower plants. Accurately measuring optical errors is crucial to assessing and improving plant performance. This analysis discusses an innovate non-intrusive optical (NIO) approach to measure slope, canting, and tracking errors by detecting distortions in the reflected tower structure in heliostat images. A sensitivity study is carefully conducted to determine the uncertainty requirements to allow the method to calculate slope errors with an accuracy of 0.25 mrad. Measurement uncertainty sources include camera resolution and position uncertainty, tower position uncertainty, and number of collected images. Each uncertainty source is investigated to determine its impact on the accuracy of the slope-error calculation. A combination of theoretical results and experimental results obtained from data collected on a heliostat at Sandia National Laboratories is used to determine and validate uncertainty requirements. The analysis shows that a measurement uncertainty of 0.25 mrad can be realized by realistically controlling uncertainty sources when implementing the NIO method. It demonstrates the superior performance of NIO in performing in-situ optical characterization.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)450-457
Number of pages8
JournalSolar Energy
Volume207
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 International Solar Energy Society

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-75833

Keywords

  • characterization
  • concentrating solar power
  • heliostats
  • non-intrusive optical method
  • power tower
  • sensitivity study

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