Here we describe a new type of point-focus solar collector for CSP called “track and tilt”. It bridges the gap between dish and heliostat arrays collectors, having the high optical efficiency of a dish but with larger aperture (> 1000 m2) focused to a tower mounted receiver in fixed gravity orientation. It is well matched to the next generation of high efficiency cavity receivers transferring heat to a storage medium at temperatures exceeding 700C.
The collector uses silvered glass reflectors mounted on a rotating, rigid structure in the form of a 120 degree conical arc. In operation, this large structure rotates in azimuth on a track around the central receiver tower, keeping the gravity load on the structure constant. The central receiver is rotated about a vertical axis so as to face the reflector arc. The reflectors are concave, all with the same focal length, and are individually tilted to follow solar elevation to focus sunlight onto the tower-mounted receiver.
A detailed optical model made of a collector with 40 m focal length has 1,450 m2 total reflector area, and delivers on average 1.2MW of sunlight to the receiver, (under 1000 W/m2 DNI and allowing for reflector and small geometric losses). The collector forms an only slightly aberrated image of the sun at the receiver, showing a concentration of 2000x averaged over the receiver entrance with spillage < 2%. The overall annual averaged efficiency, defined as (total sunlight energy delivered to the receiver entrance)/(direct normal irradiance × total reflector area) is >80%. This calculation includes 90% reflectivity of the mirrors.
To avoid the high mass and cost of a structure which must withstand 85 mph winds, our unique arc support structure takes the form of four lightly built panels which are lowered to the ground in high wind and for maintenance. Cables from the central tower are used to lower and raise the panels into operating position where they are locked together. The top section of the tower carrying the cable mechanism and the receiver rotate on a bearing in synchronization with the track mounted reflector assembly.
The small scale of the collector unit means that a first prototype of the radical new architecture can be built and tested at relatively modest cost. Higher power systems with multiple collectors and receivers might be built either with individual storage and turbines, such as sCO2, or with heat transfer to a common storage and power generation facility (as in trough systems). Continual improvements of the collector should be affordable, as system iteration costs are low.