As deployment of parabolic trough concentrating solar power (CSP) systems ramps up, the need for reliable and robust performance acceptance test guidelines for the solar field is also amplified. Project owners and/or EPC contractors often require extensive solar field performance testing as part of the plant commissioning process in order to ensure that actual solar field performance satisfies both technical specifications and performance guaranties between the involved parties. Performance test code work is currently underway at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in collaboration with the SolarPACES Task-I activity, and within the ASME PTC-52 committee. One important aspect of acceptance testing is the selection of a robust technology performance model. NREL1 has developed a detailed parabolic trough performance model [1] within the SAM software tool [2]. This model is capable of predicting solar field, sub-system, and component performance. It has further been modified for this work to support calculation at sub-hourly time steps. This paper presents the methodology and results of a case study comparing actual performance data for a parabolic trough solar field to the predicted results using the modified SAM trough model. Due to data limitations, the methodology is applied to a single collector loop, though it applies to larger subfields and entire solar fields. Special consideration is provided for the model formulation, improvements to the model formulation based on comparison with the collected data, and uncertainty associated with the measured data. Additionally, this paper identifies modeling considerations that are of particular importance in the solar field acceptance testing process and uses the model to provide preliminary recommendations regarding acceptable steady-state testing conditions at the single-loop level.

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