Researchers develop wind tunnel technology for solar mirrors

Congratulations to Mechanical Engineering and Centre for Energy Techology researchers Dr Matthew Emes and Professor Maziar Arjomandi on their invitation to participate in the US Department of Energy funded Heliostat Consortium.

photo of heliostat

Heliostat wind load and wake velocity measurements in the atmospheric test section of the University of Adelaide Wind Tunnel.

The Centre for Energy Techology researchers work on innovating solar mirrors, or 'heliostats' to decrease their cost which will lead to decreases in clean energy costs.

With more than 10,000 heliostats often making up a single solar thermal plant, this can represent up to 50% of the cost of construction. Working to decrease these costs will increase energy efficiencies and decrease energy costs.

The wind engineering and experimental fluid mechanics research group have developed innovative techniques in wind tunnel experiments to measure wind loads on heliostats. Their research has focused on understanding the effects of turbulence in the lower part of the atmosphere on the operational and destructive forces on heliostats, and developing tools to increase the resolution and accuracy of wind load predictions.

The US Department of Energy funded Heliostat Consortium, HelioCon, will bring together the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, the University of Adelaide, CSIRO, the Australian National University, and Queensland University of Technology to collaboratively work together on these challenges.

Dr Matthew Emes said the goal is to develop knowledge on how surface layer turbulence impacts on heliostat aerodynamics, solar thermal energy efficiency and levelised cost of solar thermal power.

"The development of wind characterisation tools and engineering guidelines through work in HelioCon will aid the development of sustainable energy technologies, agricultural practices and urban planning for a low-carbon economy," he said.

"This research will contribute to the University's well-deserved recognition for high-quality research into clean energy technologies and practices that reduce emissions, increase energy efficiencies, and decrease energy costs."



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