Solar optical modeling tools are valuable for modeling and predicting the performance of solar technology systems. Four optical modeling tools were evaluated using the National Solar Thermal Test Facility heliostat field combined with flat plate receiver geometry as a benchmark. The four optical modeling tools evaluated were DELSOL, HELIOS, SolTrace, and Tonatiuh. All are available for free from their respective developers. DELSOL and HELIOS both use a convolution of the sunshape and optical errors for rapid calculation of flux profiles on the receiver surfaces. SolTrace and Tonatiuh use ray-tracing methods to determine reflected solar rays on the receiver surfaces and construct flux profiles. We found the ray-tracing tools, although slower in computation speed, to be more flexible for modeling complex receiver geometries, whereas DELSOL and HELIOS were limited to standard receiver geometries. We provide an example of using SolTrace for modeling non-conventional receiver geometries. We also list the strengths and deficiencies of the tools to show tool preference depending on the modeling and design needs.

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