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WIREs Energy Environ.
Impact Factor: 2.514

Computational fluid dynamics for concentrating solar power systems

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Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) can be used to better understand complex processes and to improve designs and system performance in concentrating solar power (CSP) applications. Applications presented in this paper include CFD simulations for collectors, thermal receivers, and thermal storage technologies. CFD simulations of wind flow around collectors such as parabolic troughs and heliostats have been used to determine wind loads, which impact the design and requirements of the support structure. Simulations of the heat transfer and heat loss in solar thermal receivers have been performed to identify designs that optimize thermal efficiency, and to better understand radiative, convective, and conductive heat losses. CFD models have also been developed to understand processes in thermal storage systems, including mixing in thermoclines, heat transfer in solid media, and melting and solidification processes in phase‐change materials. Researchers have generally concluded that CFD modeling is a useful and cost‐effective tool to understand processes and improve designs for CSP systems.

This article is categorized under:

  • Concentrating Solar Power > Science and Materials
  • Concentrating Solar Power > Systems and Infrastructure
Example of a solar power tower plant showing main components of a CSP system (drawing by Steve Pope, SNL).
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Experimental testing and numerical simulation of the melting of a PCM in a spherical container. Reproduced with permission from Ref 53. Copyright 2011, Elsevier.
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CFD simulated flow lines and temperature contours in a nonadiabatic thermocline storage tank. Reproduced with permission from Ref 44. Copyright 2010, Elsevier.
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(a) Sketch of falling particle receiver. (b) On‐sun test of falling particle receiver. (c) CFD simulations of particle temperatures and air velocities in falling particle receiver. Reproduced with permission from Ref 35. Copyright 2009, ASME.
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Simulated flow paths colored by velocity in heated cubical cavity.
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Empirical Schlieren image (left) and CFD simulations of temperature (middle) and velocity (right) contour plots near a heated cavity receiver. Reproduced with permission from Ref 29. Copyright 2004, ASME.
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Solar two external receiver (left) and CFD simulations of air velocity with different wind velocities. Reproduced with permission from Ref 28. Copyright 2012, ASME.
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Temperature distribution on a trough receiver tube. Reproduced with permission from Ref 23. Copyright 2010, Elsevier.
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Anemometers (left) and simulated (right) wind velocities near a heliostat. Reproduced with permission from Ref 22. Copyright 2012, ASES.
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Wind tunnel model (left) and simulated velocity profile (right) resulting from flow through a gap between heliostat facets. Reproduced with permission from Ref 21. Copyright 2010, Elsevier.
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CFD simulation of wind flow past a parabolic trough collector rotated 60° clockwise from face‐up position. Reproduced with permission from Ref 19. Copyright 2007, Elsevier.
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Concentrating Solar Power > Science and Materials
Concentrating Solar Power > Systems and Infrastructure

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