U.S. Department of Energy

Low-Cost Heliostat for Modular Systems

National Renewable Energy Laboratory logo Graphic of blue squares at the bottom representing heliostats, connected by lines to a CSP wireless communication system.

Diagram of the wireless control scheme NREL will develop for heliostat fields. Image from NREL

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), under the National Laboratory R&D competitive funding opportunity, is developing and demonstrating a novel collector design and low-cost heliostat that will reduce equipment and installation costs while improving or maintaining performance, thereby reaching SunShot Initiative cost and performance targets for concentrating solar power (CSP) collector systems.

Approach

The research team aims to reduce heliostat field costs by using novel structures and component configurations, reducing hardware costs through innovative software solutions, and developing a collector suitable for a variety of solar field designs required by advanced receiver technologies.

The design goals for the project include:

  • A structure that maintains less than 4.0 mrad total image error at wind speeds up to 12 m/s (26.8 mph)
  • A wireless, locally-powered communication and control system that decreases the cost of these components by at least 20%
  • An autonomous, optical calibration technique that provides greater accuracy through the ability to have increased calibration frequency.

Innovation

This design approach is unique because it uses an optimized structure that not only reduces material costs, but also minimizes loads on the drive system, permitting a reduction in drive costs compared to standard designs. The approach integrates an off-grid, redundant, shared-node, mesh network that mitigates any downtime due to communication errors. The team will also assess an innovative closed-loop feedback control system that integrates into the wireless mesh network to ensure accurate tracking throughout the day.

Publications, Patents, and Awards

At this time, this project does not have published articles, patents, or awards.

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Progress Reports
January 2013

Program Fact Sheet

Learn about other DOE competitive awards for concentrating solar power research that are in progress.