Development of a solar furnace heliostat.
Perumall, Preyen Agasthian.
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The Solar Energy Research Amplified Flux Facility (SERAFF) is the flagship project of University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Group for Solar Energy Thermodynamics (GSET). SERAFF will assume an on-axis optical configuration, common in solar furnaces around the world, comprising a flat, non-imaging heliostat reflector and a paraboloidal primary concentrator. At design-point conditions, a thermal power output of approximately 5 kW is expected with a peak flux in the region of 3 MW/m2. The facility will provide the University of KwaZulu-Natal with a platform to undertake wide-ranging research in disciplines including concentrating solar power, materials testing and processing, and solar thermochemistry, amongst others. The primary goal of this research was to design and fabricate a flat heliostat which will enable SERAFF to meet the specified thermal requirements. The first phase of this study was to characterise the available solar resource for Durban, South Africa, where SERAFF will be installed. A statistical algorithm was developed that processes historical ground-based solar measurements to generate a continuous function that estimates clear-sky direct normal irradiance (DNI) as a function of solar time and day number over a typical year. The three-dimensional surface that results from this function is termed a temporal DNI topograph (TDT) and can be used to define solar flux input for the modelling of concentrator systems. The heliostat dimensions are dependent on the size of the concentrator aperture it is tasked with illuminating. As such, sizing the concentrator was key. A geometrically based approximation of the maximum theoretical power output of a parabolic primary concentrator was developed. This model was used to calculate the diameter of the parabolic concentrator needed to achieve SERAFF’s specified power output. The model was validated against real solar furnaces around the world and it was found that the model approximated the power output for these solar furnaces within 12% of their published power output values. Following an optical analysis and illumination study, and after taking into consideration the practical and financial constraints placed on the project, it was decided that 3 m x 3 m was the most suitable size for SERAFF’s heliostat. A finite element analysis was used in the design process to assess the survivability (under load from a worst-case wind speed of 100 km/hr) and the rigidity (under load from an operational wind speed of 20 km/hr) for the different heliostat design concepts considered. After analyses of the FEA results it was decided that a classical T-shape design with an aluminium mirror backing frame would be employed. Fabrication of the structural components was undertaken at the department of Mechanical Engineering’s workshop and assembled at a temporary site in close proximity. Consideration was given to the effect the fabrication process would have on the tracking and optical accuracy of the heliostat. The total cost of fabrication was R91,655, exceeding the budget of R85,000 by R6,655. This was due to high import taxes paid on the slewing drive actuator and polished aluminium mirror facets. The actual cost of materials and components was R70,353 excluding the import taxes.