Parabolic trough concentrating collectors play a major role in the energy efficiency and economics of concentrating solar power plants. Therefore, existing collector systems are constantly enhanced and new types were developed. Thermal performance testing is one step generally required in the course of their testing and qualification. For outdoor tests of prototypes, a heat transfer fluid loop (single collector or entire loop) needs to be equipped with measurement sensors for inlet, outlet, and ambient temperature as well as irradiance, wind speed, and mass or volumetric flow rate to evaluate the heat balance. Assessing the individual measurement uncertainties and their impact on the combined uncertainty of the desired measurement quantity one obtains the significance of the testing results. The method has been applied to a set of EuroTrough collector tests performed at Plataforma Solar de Almería, Spain. Test results include the uncertainty range of the resulting modeling function and exemplify the effects of sensors and their specifications on the parameters leading to an uncertainty of ±1.7% points for the optical collector efficiency. The measurement uncertainties of direct normal irradiance and mass flow rate are identified as determining uncertainty contributions and indicate room for improvement. Extended multiple sensor deployment and improved calibration procedures are the key to further reducing measurement uncertainty and hence increasing testing significance.

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