In Situ Wind and Turbulence Measurements in a Field of Full-Size Parabolic Trough Solar Collectors

Research output: NRELPoster


Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) is a promising method for using Solar power for electricity generation with thermal energy storage. One of the primary drivers of structural design costs of CSP collector structures is wind loading. To date, the design of these structures has relied on data from wind tunnels that do not adequately capture the dynamic effects observed at scale. NREL initiated a field measurement 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, providing insights on structural dynamic response, and generating a first-of-a-kind, comprehensive, high-resolution wind-loading dataset available for validating simulations of wind loading on collector structures. The measurements at NSO consist of Sonic anemometers on masts at different heights to characterize the incoming flow and conditions within and above the trough field, in combination with a Doppler Lidar scanning the horizontal plane above the troughs. The wind measurements at NSO have been continuously operating since October 2021 and provide a year-long dataset characterizing wind and turbulence conditions. The structural load measurements start in November 2022 and will complement the wind measurements. In this poster, we present first results of the wind measurement campaign by highlighting days with different atmospheric flow conditions. We identified three main factors altering the flow over the parabolic troughs: Wind speed, wind direction, and the angle of the parabolic troughs. The highest loads are expected when the wind blows perpendicular to the trough rows. In this case, the first rows experience the highest loads and block the subsequent rows, creating conditions with decreased wind speed and enhanced turbulence within the trough field. Also, turbulent length scales change. These affected conditions produce unique load cases on the structures that will be captured by the load measurements. If the wind blows along the trough rows, wind and turbulence conditions are less influenced by the troughs.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the 24th Symposium on Boundary Layers and Turbulence, 8-12 January 2023, Denver, Colorado

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-5000-84662


  • atmospheric turbulence
  • CSP
  • CSP collectors
  • in-situ measurements
  • parabolic troughs
  • wind loads


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