These are projects posted by the students of Dr. Gove Allen at Brigham Young University. These students have taken one semester-long course on VBA and generally have had no prior programming experience

Monday, April 16, 2012

Joe Hilton - solar field simulator and optimizer

The Problem:  solar power generation can be a very capital expensive process.  Most of this capital is deployed in building the solar field which contains hundreds or even thousands of individual heliostats (a heliostat is a mirror or other glass pane attached to a motor and gear that enable it to track the movement of the sun).  In a Power-Tower solar configuration, all these individual heliostats track the movement of the sun and position themselves to reflect the sun’s rays to a central tower where the heat is gathered and used to generate usable energy (watch the movie Sahara to see an example of what this looks like).

Obviously, the plant owner wants to know how much energy can be expected from a given solar field.  Furthermore, the plant owner also wants to know what the optimum configuration of a solar field should be in order to maximize energy collected for capital deployed on heliostats.  The trick is that the wave-particles in each sun ray (called photons) do not always behave as expected.  They can bounce in funny angles.  They can be blocked by clouds.  They can be attenuated by dust.  They can do all sorts of unpredictable things on their way from the sun to heliostats to the power tower.  Given that building a solar field is a very expensive proposition that requires a plant builder to be born full grown (as in, it won’t work unless the entire field is built all at once), the problem is to accurately predict the performance of a theoretical solar field, and then to optimize that field to get maximum performance for a given number of heliostats – and dollars.
The Solution: basically, my project builds various theoretical solar field configurations based on the building sites and heliostat materials available, and then it runs Monte Carlo simulations on those sites on sun positions throughout the year based on the user’s inputs for the latitude of the building site.  My writeup goes through the steps I took to build this solution with detailed explanations on how I did what I did, why I did it, where the limitations are, and what could be done to extend the scope of the project.

Here are the files:


No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive