A newly developed analytical optical approach — First-principle OPTical Intercept Calculation (FirstOPTIC) — is employed to study the optical impact of receiver position error on parabolic trough collectors. The FirstOPTIC program performs first-principle treatment system optical error sources. By analyzing a large number of cases with varying system parameters such as the overall system optical error and the collector geometrical parameters, the paper quantitatively examines the difference between the first-principle treatment and probability approximation to receiver position error. In addition, a practical correlation between actual measurement data and its probability approximation for receiver position errors is established from parametric study; the correlation can be used to evaluate the relative importance of receiver position error to the collector’s optical performance. The effective coefficients defining the correlation of receiver position errors are also summarized for some existing trough collectors and make it convenient to conduct error-convolution-based optical analysis, which was not straightforward before. It is also shown that FirstOPTIC is a suitable tool for in-depth optical analysis and fast collector design optimization, which otherwise requires computationally intensive ray-tracing simulations.

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