The collector aperture and diameter of the receiver of a parabolic trough were studied to investigate the relative impacts of parasitic pressure drop, heat losses, and heat flux intercepted by the receiver tube. The configuration of an LS-2 parabolic trough was used as the baseline, and the size of the HCE and collector aperture were parametrically varied using values between the baseline and twice their original size. A Matlab computer model was created to determine the flux on the receiver, heat loss from the HCE, and pressure drop within the heat transfer fluid (HTF) at each combination of aperture size and receiver diameter. Flux on the receiver is calculated for each geometry assuming a Gaussian flux distribution. Based on pressure data from SEGS VII, the standard Darcy-Weisbach equation for the pressure drop was modified to include the contribution that connective joints of varying quantities and types have on the pressure drop within the HTF. The model employs the Sandia thermal resistive network and iteratively solves for the temperatures accounting for various heat transfer modes that contribute to the heat lost by the HCE. The Matlab model expresses pressure drop and heat losses in terms of electric power. It does this by calculating both the power required to pump the HTF for varying pressure drops and the power that could have been produced if heat was not lost to the environment. The Matlab model displays the results in the form of surface plots that represent the values of heat loss, efficiency, pumping power, etc. as a function of aperture size and receiver diameter. The combined effects of pressure drop, heat loss, and heat flux intercepted by the receiver tube were evaluated, and results show that configurations with receiver diameters ranging from 85–90 millimeters and large (up to 10 meter) aperture sizes minimize the overall power consumption and maximize the efficiency of a single loop. Structural effects, wind and gravity loads, and factors associated with the balance of plant were not considered.

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