Project Profile: Heliostat System with Wireless Closed-Loop Control

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-- This project is inactive --

Thermata, under the 2012 SunShot Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) R&D funding opportunity announcement (FOA), is demonstrating a collector system with enhanced optical tracking capability. The unit includes a control system that provides real-time information to adjust the location of the reflected sunlight. It demonstrates a prototype heliostat system that meets the cost, performance, and reliability objectives of the SunShot Initiative.

Approach

The research team is working to demonstrate that a heliostat system using Thermata's innovative closed-loop optical tracking technology can satisfy key technical requirements, including total optical error and wind-load requirements. The goals of this project are to:

  • Demonstrate the effectiveness of a camera-based tracking system
  • Validate the cost of Thermata heliostats going to $75/m2 when installed in high volumes
  • Characterize the optical performance of the heliostat system.
Self-powered, factory-assembled heliostats use closed-loop control to lower the cost of a solar collector field. Tower-mounted cameras sense reflections from small "solar proxies" mounted on each mirror which determine the real-time aiming point

Innovation

Thermata's transformative concept is an innovation in closed-loop tracking. A camera system mounted on the central-receiver tower optically senses the focus of each individual heliostat and uses end-to-end closed-loop control to accurately place the sun on any receiver target. In addition, Thermata's heliostat is controlled through a wireless mesh network, is self-powered by photovoltaics, and is factory prewired, which eliminates field wiring, trenching, and related costs.

Publications, Patents, and Awards

Project Fact Sheet

The SunShot CSP R&D program seeks to accelerate progress toward the cost target of $0.06 per kilowatt-hour through novel and revolutionary research into CSP technologies. Learn about other DOE competitive awards for concentrating solar power research that are in progress.