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Solar collector stationary system efficient as solar tracking systems

By Damir Beciri
3 Comments30 September 2011

uc-merced-solar-collector-teamTypically, solar collectors must move and track the sun to achieve optimal energy production, necessitating additional equipment that can be costly to install and complex to maintain. A team of researchers from the University of California, Merced, have developed an entirely stationary system which is equally effective as solar tracking systems while being much simpler and affordable.

UC Merced Professor Roland Winston and his team of student researchers have designed and developed External Compound Parabolic Concentrator (XCPC) – a system that gathers and concentrates sunlight onto specially made collector tubes. The heat generated can then be transformed using existing technology for cooling, heating and a number of other potential uses.

XCPX generates solar thermal efficiency of 60 percent at temperatures up to 205°C (400°F), achieving thermal performance of solar collectors with tracking systems. And in contrast to tracking systems that work only on clear, sunny days, the External Compound Parabolic Concentrator can operate in hazy conditions because it is capable to collect both direct and indirect sunlight.

“For any application that requires process heat, the XCPC system is potentially a very cost-effective way to reduce conventional fuel consumption and greenhouse gases. Its non-tracking design also enables it to be installed in any number of ways, including on rooftops and walls. You don’t have this type of architectural flexibility with tracking thermal systems”, said Winston.

In order to demonstrate the efficiency of their system, Winston’s team installed an array of 160 External Compound Parabolic Concentrators in two parallel rows in order to provide power for air conditioning unit which cools a mobile office trailer at their facility at Castle in Atwater. The air conditioning used in the demonstration comes from a high-performance, double-effect absorption unit which requires a significant heat source to generate cooling.

“Solar thermal technology can also have a very positive effect on air quality”, said Heather Poiry, who lead the students on this project nd is in the process of completing her master’s degree in mechanical engineering at UC Merced while studying under Winston. “And I think being able to create this technology right here and know we can make an impact here in the Valley is very important to all of us.”

The utilization of solar thermal energy is constantly growing across the world, and developments like the one described in this article contribute to their affordability and lower their payback time (which currently ranges from 3 to 10 years depending on the amount of insolation in particular region).

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3 Comments — Leave your response!

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    Excellent Innovative system.Infact Solar Thermal is the economic route to get power.

    It would seem, based on the numbers, that solar thermal would be the easy bread winner.
    For one, efficiency is much higher for solar thermal. You can use up to 70% of the sun’s energy with a thermal solar collector. Whereas, using a PV collector, sunlight-to-electricity conversion rates average about 12% only. You can also look at it in terms of area. It is a rule of thumb that, at any given (sunny) time, the energy available from the sun is about 1kW per square meter. This is equivalent to 3400 BTU/hr/square meter. Therefore, if you can get 70% efficiency using a solar thermal collector, you would only need approximately 42 square meters to generate 100,000 BTU/hr, or the amount of heat generated by a typical gas furnace.
    Thus, your solar thermal system would require much less space (and many fewer collectors) than a solar PV system. Not only that, but solar thermal collectors are about 5 times cheaper than solar PV panels. So you’ve got a scenario in which you have a system that is 6 times more efficient at 20% of the cost of its rival.(Source: CalFinder)
    Solar thermal represents the future of solar energy and a ‘green’ electrical grid. There have been new innovations in thermal storage techniques which when available in the market will give a big push to Solar Thermal.

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    Solar Collector

    I’m really glad I have found this info. Today bloggers publish only about gossips and web and this is actually annoying. A good website with exciting content, this is what I need. Thank you for keeping this website, I will be visiting it.

  • Avatar
    Frank Erickson, M.D.

    Where can one obtain the design details? Where is this published?

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