Dynamic Wind Loading on CSP Collectors Caused by Turbulent Wind Fluctuations: Insights from a 2-Year Field Campaign

Research output: NRELPresentation


Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) is a promising solar technology for electricity generation with thermal energy storage and with the additional benefit of industrial heat production. Wind loading on CSP collector structures, such as parabolic troughs or heliostats, is one of the primary drivers of their structural design costs. In particular, dynamic wind loading is a major source of uncertainty in the collector design process, which heavily relies on wind tunnel testing. In the field, the turbulent nature of the incoming wind creates fluctuating loads (support structure loads and resulting mirror deflections) on the collectors, with impacts on fatigue lifetime and optical performance. As is well known, wind tunnel tests cannot entirely reproduce the complex turbulent wind conditions typically observed at full-scale plants. To shed light on this topic, NREL initiated a field campaign at the operational Nevada Solar One (NSO) powerplant that uses parabolic troughs as solar collectors. The aim of the project is a detailed characterization of prevailing wind and turbulence conditions and resulting operational loads on parabolic troughs. We use the published 2-year dataset of high-resolution combined wind and structural loads measurements [1] to characterize the dynamic structural wind response. For quantifying dynamic wind loading, we apply the concept of admittance functions, which are spectral transfer functions that couple the turbulent wind to resulting structural loads (aerodynamic admittance), and to the structural response (mechanical admittance). In practice, aerodynamic admittance describes which turbulent eddy sizes are effective in creating structural loads. The mechanical admittance describes in which frequency ranges these loads are reinforced or dampened by the structure. While these functions are an established concept in civil engineering, their recent application to a single full-scale heliostat [2] proved their broader applicability to CSP collectors. Here, we present a characterization of admittance functions for full-scale parabolic trough collectors and show how wind characteristics (mean wind speed and direction, turbulent kinetic energy, turbulent length scales), the sun-tracking trough angle, and row position alter the admittance functions. Further, we study to which extent the admittance functions are universal for a specific trough geometry and how our findings compare to reported heliostat results. References [1] https://data.openei.org/submissions/5938. [2] Blume, K., Roger, M., and Pitz-Paal, R. 2023b. "Simplified analytical model to describe wind loads and wind-induced tracking deviations of heliostats." Solar Energy, 256, 96-109. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.solener.2023.03.055.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages14
StatePublished - 2024

Publication series

NamePresented at the 104th American Meteorological Society (AMS) Annual Meeting, 28 January - 1 February 2024, Baltimore, Maryland

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5000-88704


  • admittance functions
  • CSP
  • energy
  • solar
  • storage
  • wind
  • wind loading


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