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The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) provides industry, government, and university staff who are researching concentrating solar power (CSP) with access to state-of-the-art equipment that can be used to

A trough up to 16 meters long can be mounted in the Large-Payload Solar Tracker on South Table Mountain above the main NREL campus.

Large-Payload Solar Tracker

NREL's multipurpose, large-payload tracker supports testing of solar components that require tracking the sun in elevation and azimuth. Concentrating collectors require 2-axis tracking to focus sunlight on a thermal or photovoltaic (PV) receiver. For flat-plate collectors, flat-plate PV, or solar hot-water, this would imply tracking to minimize variation in solar resource during on-sun testing. As applicable, the site can be used to supplement metrology activities that require 2-axis tracking for simultaneous calibration of a large number of solar radiation measurement instrumentation. The large-payload tracker is capable of carrying a maximum vertical load of 9,000 pounds with a tracking accuracy of 1 milliradian.

Hexagonal mirrors of the HFSF's primary system concentrate the sun, which can be further concentrated as needed by secondary optics.

High-Flux Solar Furnace

The 10-kilowatt High-Flux Solar Furnace (HFSF) has been in operation since 1990 and consists of a tracking heliostat and 25 hexagonal slightly concave mirrors to concentrate solar radiation. The solar furnace can quickly generate up to 1,800 °C over a 1-cm2 area—and up to 3,000 °C with specialized secondary optics to generate concentrations greater than 20,000 suns. Flux levels and distributions can also be tailored to the needs of a particular research activity.

The HFSF test building is equipped with computers and data acquisition tools, video monitors of the outside equipment, sophisticated instruments to monitor solar radiation, and automated devices that enable researchers to control and measure the power of the concentrated sunlight.

The operational characteristics and size of the facility make it ideal for testing over a wide range of technologies with a diverse set of experimental requirements. The high heating rates create the perfect tool for testing high-temperature materials, coatings on metals and ceramics, and other materials-related applications. The power generated can be used to evaluate many components—such as receivers, collectors, and reflector materials—used in CSP systems.

The facility can provide a platform for testing prototype advanced converters and chemical reactors for solar-electric and solar-chemistry applications. Researchers can also use the HFSF to evaluate and develop state-of-the-art measurement systems for the extreme solar environment.

Read more on HFSF Facility and on HFSF specifications.