Fundamental to the design of solar trough collectors is that a suitable structure must be provided for positioning and support of mirrors, as well as pipes for transporting heat transfer fluids. These elements and related hardware are basic to the level of investment necessary for fabrication of collectors. An objective of system optimization is to design structures so that they are capable of more than one useful function, and to achieve this with little or no added cost. Two valuable commodities, Thermal Energy and Potable Water, can be accessed through design innovation, using the same basic structure, and without interfering with efficient harvest of either commodity. Additional design opportunities are implicit in the fact that solar collectors must operate in open air. To explore means for mitigating resultant operational and maintenance problems, a 1/4 scale version of a one meter focal length collector was built and tested. Using hinged mirror panels that open and close like a clamshell, the assembly can assume several distinct configurations. These include solar concentrator mode, protective storage, mirror cleaning, solar rejection, and harvest of ambient moisture. Of particular interest for smaller applications, all features can be incorporated into a dedicated “Unitized” assembly, ideal for application on industrial or commercial buildings.

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