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Wind-Tunnel Tests Assist in Structural Design of Parabolic Trough Solar Collectors

June 13, 2008

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently released the results of extensive wind-tunnel tests on parabolic trough solar collectors. These tests and their analysis—conducted by Cermak Peterka Petersen, Inc.; Solargenix Energy, LLC; and Kearney & Associates—determined practical wind loads applicable to the structural design for stress and deformation.  Results are also applicable to the design of local components for the concentrator reflectors.

To measure the overall dynamic loads and simultaneous pressure distributions on the solar collector, researchers used force balances and a multi-pressure data acquisition system, respectively, in a boundary-layer wind tunnel.  Test configurations examined included an isolated collector and solar-field collectors at different positions.

Significant test results are presented and discussed in detail by N. Hosoya, J.A. Peterka, R.C. Gee, and D. Kearney in their report, Wind Tunnel Tests of Parabolic Trough Solar Collectors (PDF 3.4 MB).

The wind-tunnel tests produced sufficient data useful for present and future designs. Ultimately, the acceptability of the wind-tunnel test results should be based on comparing models to full-scale units, which requires measuring wind loads on full-scale solar collectors.

For other publications on various parabolic trough-related research, check out NREL’s TroughNet Web site.

—Don Gwinner