Demonstrating SolarPILOT's Python API Through Heliostat Optimal Aimpoint Strategy Use Case: Preprint

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


SolarPILOT is a software package that generates heliostat field layouts and characterizes the optical performance of concentrating solar power (CSP) tower systems. SolarPILOT was developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) as a stand-alone desktop application but has also been incorporated into NREL's System Advisor Model (SAM) in a simplified format. Prior means for user interaction with SolarPILOT have included the application's graphical interface, the SAM routines with limited configurability, and through a built-in scripting language called "LK." This paper presents a new, full-featured Python-based application programmable interface (API) for SolarPILOT, which we hereafter refer to as CoPylot. CoPylot provides access to all SolarPILOT's capabilities to generate and characterize power tower CSP systems seamlessly through Python. Supported capabilities include (i) creating and destroying a model instances with message reporting tools; (ii) accessing and setting any SolarPILOT variable including custom land boundaries for field layout; (iii) programmatically managing receiver and heliostat objects with varied attributes for systems with multiple receiver or heliostat types; (iv) generating, assigning, and modifying heliostat field layouts including the ability to set individual heliostat locations, aimpoints, soiling rates, and reflectivity levels; (v) simulating heliostat field performance; (vi) returning detailed results describing performance of individual heliostats, the aggregate field, and receiver flux; and, (vii) exporting Python-based model instances to multiple file formats. CoPylot enables Python users to perform detailed tower CSP analysis utilizing either the Hermite expansion technique (analytical) or the SolTrace ray-tracing engine. In addition to CoPylot's functionality, Python users have access to the over 100,000 open-source libraries to develop, analyze, optimize, and visualize CSP tower research.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 2021
Event15th International Conference on Energy Sustainability (ES2021) - Denver, Colorado
Duration: 16 Jun 202118 Jun 2021


Conference15th International Conference on Energy Sustainability (ES2021)
CityDenver, Colorado

Bibliographical note

See NREL/CP-5700-80737 for paper as published in proceedings

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-5700-78774


  • concentrating solar power
  • CoPylot
  • heliostat field layout
  • open-source
  • Power Tower CSP
  • Python API
  • SolarPILOT


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