At the University of Colorado - Boulder, The Department of Integrated Remote Sensing In Situ is teaming up with National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Sandia in order to develop a UAS-driven, non-intrusive optical characterization tool to perform heliostat field assessments. This tool will serve to correct and enhance heliostat field performance and reduce operation and maintenance costs.

Simply put, the NREL and Sandia National Laboratories are planning to reduce the cost it takes to operate heliostats efficiently.

IRISS will provide Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) that will collect the data for the laboratories. The UAS will be equipped with cameras that will record images of near-field and far-field targets. With image-processing algorithms, the labs will have the capability to derive a full spectrum of optical error sources existing in a heliostat field.

Prospective Outlook

In 2019, NREL and Sandia labs are aiming to measure optical error sources of a heliostat field. Recent analysis by NREL labs showed that even the slightest degradation in optical precision can reduce energy production by up to 24% (NREL citation). Alongside with optical characterization, the labs will develop correction algorithms for the images that are collected.

By the year 2021, the project will roll out to a commercial heliostat field in Crescent Dunes in Nevada to demonstrate the developed optical measurement and correction tool.

  • Plant operators do not possess the tools that are needed to assess or correct any field optical errors. Using UAS with a mounted imaging system will not only perform the needed assessments and corrections, but it will survey a utility-scale field without interrupting heliostat plant operations.

Acknowledgment: This material is based on work supported by the National Renewable Energy Laboratories and Sandia National Laboratories.

More information provided at https://www.nrel.gov/