Research Papers

Monte Carlo Simulation of Sunlight Transport in Solar Trees for Effective Sunlight Capture

[+] Author and Article Information
Navni N. Verma

Department of Mechanical
and Aerospace Engineering,
The Ohio State University,
Suite E410, Scott Laboratory,
201 West 19th Avenue,
Columbus, OH 43210

Sandip Mazumder

Fellow ASME
Department of Mechanical
and Aerospace Engineering,
The Ohio State University,
Suite E410, Scott Laboratory,
201 West 19th Avenue,
Columbus, OH 43210
e-mail: mazumder.2@osu.edu

1Corresponding author.

Contributed by the Solar Energy Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF SOLAR ENERGY ENGINEERING: INCLUDING WIND ENERGY AND BUILDING ENERGY CONSERVATION. Manuscript received January 2, 2014; final manuscript received August 4, 2014; published online November 7, 2014. Editor: Gilles Flamant.

J. Sol. Energy Eng 137(2), 021015 (Apr 01, 2015) (9 pages) Paper No: SOL-14-1005; doi: 10.1115/1.4028915 History: Received January 02, 2014; Revised August 04, 2014; Online November 07, 2014

Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells arranged in complex 3D leaflike configurations—referred to as a solar tree—can potentially collect more sunlight than traditionally used flat configurations. It is hypothesized that this could be because of two reasons. First, the 3D space can be utilized to increase the overall surface area over which the sunlight may be captured. Second, as opposed to traditional flat panel configurations where the capture efficiency decreases dramatically for shallow angles of incidence, the capture efficiency of a solar tree is hampered little by shallow angles of incidence due to the 3D orientation of the solar leaves. In this paper, high fidelity Monte Carlo simulation of radiation transport is conducted to gain insight into whether the above hypotheses are true. The Monte Carlo simulations provide local radiation flux distributions in addition to global radiation flux summaries. The studies show that except for near-normal solar incidence angles, solar trees capture sunlight more effectively than flat panels—often by more than a factor of 5. The Monte Carlo results were also interpolated to construct a daily sunlight capture profile both for midwinter and midsummer for a typical North American city. During winter, the solar tree improved sunlight capture by 227%, while in summer the improvement manifested was 54%.

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Fig. 1

Instantaneous theoretical and actual solar insolation at 40°N latitude on summer and winter solstice. The solid lines are for a south-facing surface inclined at 15.7 deg with the ground, while the dotted lines are for a north-facing surface inclined at 15.7 deg with the ground. The theoretical data were generated using relationships available in Ref. [2]. The actual data, indicated by dots, were obtained from the National Solar Radiation database [19] for 2010 and averaged over five North American cities (Columbus, Philadelphia, Denver, Indianapolis, and Baltimore) all of which are located at 40°N latitude.

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Fig. 2

Radiation flow pathways in (a) in actual tree and (b) solar tree

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Fig. 3

Geometry and boundary conditions for the test case used for validation study. The red dotted lines indicate paths along which the heat fluxes predicted by the two methods were compared.

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Fig. 4

Comparison of nondimensional heat fluxes computed on the various walls

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Fig. 5

Simulated single-layer solar tree with individual leaves (solar cells) tilted within the range ±20 deg: (a) computational domain and (b) mesh used for simulation

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Fig. 6

Computed nondimensional radiation flux on a single-layer solar tree with 40 deg solar incidence angle and leaf tilt angles ranging between ±20 deg

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Fig. 7

Double-layer solar tree: (a) geometry, (b) computed nondimensional radiation heat flux with 40 deg solar incidence angle and leaf tilt angles ranging between ±20 deg for the inner layer only

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Fig. 8

Improvement manifested by adding a second inner layer to the solar tree for various number if leaves in the outer layer. In each case, 191 additional leaves were placed in the second inner layer. For both layers, leaves were not tilted.

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Fig. 9

Daily performance of a flat panel and a double-layered solar tree with area ratio 1.91 situated in Boulder, Colorado (40°N latitude): (a) solar incidence (or zenith) angle and (b) sunlight captured as extrapolated from Monte Carlo simulations



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