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Research Papers

J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2017;139(3):031001-031001-9. doi:10.1115/1.4035516.

A solar chimney is a natural ventilation technique that has potential to save energy consumption as well as to maintain the air quality in a building. However, studies of buildings are often challenging due to their large sizes. The objective of this study was to determine the relationships between small- and full-scale solar chimney system models. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) was employed to model different building sizes with a wall-solar chimney utilizing a validated model. The window, which controls entrainment of ambient air for ventilation, was also studied to determine the effects of window position. A set of nondimensional parameters were identified to describe the important features of the chimney configuration, window configuration, temperature changes, and solar radiation. Regression analysis was employed to develop a mathematical model to predict velocity and air changes per hour, where the model agreed well with CFD results yielding a maximum relative error of 1.2% and with experiments for a maximum error of 3.1%. Additional wall-solar chimney data were tested using the mathematical model based on random conditions (e.g., geometry, solar intensity), and the overall relative error was less than 6%. The study demonstrated that the flow and thermal conditions in larger buildings can be predicted from the small-scale model, and that the newly developed mathematical equation can be used to predict ventilation conditions for a wall-solar chimney.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2017;139(3):031002-031002-10. doi:10.1115/1.4035518.

Concentrating solar power (CSP) can provide additional thermal energy to boost geothermal plant power generation. For a newly constructed solar field at a geothermal power plant site, it is critical to properly characterize its performance so that the prediction of thermal power generation can be derived to develop an optimum operating strategy for a hybrid system. In the past, laboratory characterization of a solar collector has often extended into the solar field performance model and has been used to predict the actual solar field performance, disregarding realistic impacting factors. In this work, an extensive measurement on mirror slope error and receiver position error has been performed in the field by using the optical characterization tool called distant observer (DO). Combining a solar reflectance sampling procedure, a newly developed solar characterization program called firstoptic and public software for annual performance modeling called system advisor model (SAM), a comprehensive solar field optical characterization has been conducted, thus allowing for an informed prediction of solar field annual performance. The paper illustrates this detailed solar field optical characterization procedure and demonstrates how the results help to quantify an appropriate tracking-correction strategy to improve solar field performance. In particular, it is found that an appropriate tracking-offset algorithm can improve the solar field performance by about 15%. The work here provides a valuable reference for the growing CSP industry.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2017;139(3):031003-031003-10. doi:10.1115/1.4035517.

While solar thermal power plants are increasingly gaining attention and have demonstrated their applications, extending electricity generation after the sunset using phase change material (PCM) still remains a grand challenge. Most of the organic PCMs are known to possess high energy density per unit volume, but low thermal conductivity, that necessitates the use of thermal conductivity enhancers (TCEs) to augment heat transfer within PCM. In this paper, thermal performance and optimization of shell and tube heat exchanger-based latent heat thermal energy storage system (LHTES) using fins as TCE for medium temperature (<300 °C) organic Rankine cycle (ORC)-based solar thermal plant are presented. A commercial grade organic PCM, A164 with melting temperature of 168.7 °C is filled in the shell side and heat transfer fluid (HTF), Hytherm 600 flows through the tubes. A three-dimensional numerical model using enthalpy technique is developed to study the solidification of PCM, with and without fin. Further, the effect of geometrical parameters of fin, such as fin thickness, fin height, and number of fin on the thermal performance of LHTES, is studied. It is found that fin thickness and number of fin play significant role on the solidification process of PCM. Finally, the optimum design of the fin geometry is determined by maximizing the combined objective of HTF outlet temperature and solid fraction of PCM at the end of the discharging period. The latent heat thermal storage system with 24 fins, each of 1 mm thickness and 7 mm height, is found to be the optimum design for the given set of operating parameters.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2017;139(3):031004-031004-12. doi:10.1115/1.4035756.

This study presents a new design for improving the convection heat transfer coefficients of double-pass solar air heater. Three cases were described by using a different number of transverse baffles (three, five, and seven) in the lower channel of the collectors; steel mesh sheets were also used to enlarge the heat transfer area. All collectors have a space of 25 mm between its glass covers and a 50 mm depth of air channel. Furthermore, this work examined the effect of air flow rate and baffles number on device's thermal efficiency and outlet temperature. The experimental results indicate raises in the thermal efficiency as the air flow rate goes from 0.011 kg/s to 0.038 kg/s. A maximum efficiency of 68% was obtained from the case of seven baffles at the air flow rate of 0.038 kg/s. Moreover, the difference between collector's inlet and outlet temperatures, ΔT, indicated an inverse relationship with air flow rate. Thus, the results show ΔT increases as the air flow rate reduced. The maximum temperature difference recorded was 54 °C, which achieved using seven baffled solar air heater at 0.011 kg/s air flow rate in the middle of the day. It has also been found that thermal efficiency of double-pass solar air heater is greater than single-pass solar air heater, using same air flow rate and number of baffles. Finally, the pressure drop associated with increasing the number of baffles and air flow rate was deliberated.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2017;139(3):031005-031005-7. doi:10.1115/1.4035757.

Solar thermal coatings are designed to achieve the highest incident solar flux into the receiver of a tower solar plant. These materials are subjected to extreme working conditions of temperature and solar concentrated radiation. Much effort is being made to develop a durable and high absorptive coating that can provide an excellent solar to heat conversion efficiency. Complex deposition techniques (PVD, CVD, electrodeposition, etc.) are developed and tested to achieve solar selectivity. High solar absorptance paints are an alternative technique, that is, easy to apply and implement in the field. In paint, pigments are the compound that provides high absorptance values, whose stability impacts the durability of optical properties. The search for new selective solar pigments for solar receivers is a promising route to improve the efficiency of this technology. In this work, novel nanocomposites were synthesized from low-cost organic materials such as table sugar. Promising results were obtained when intercalated and calcined in the laminar structure of montmorillonite, a type of smectite clay. The pigments were tested in a paint format on metallic coupons at different temperatures to obtain absorptivities above 96% of absorptance after 24 h at 700  °C. Further experiments are still needed to obtain optimum conditions to maximize the coating's absorptivity and durability at high temperature.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2017;139(3):031006-031006-12. doi:10.1115/1.4035846.

Bearing faults occur frequently in wind turbines, thus resulting in an unplanned downtime and economic loss. Vibration signal collected from a failing bearing exhibits modulation phenomenon and “cyclostationarity.” In this paper, the cyclostationary analysis is utilized to the vibration signal from the drive-end of the wind turbine generator. Fault features of the inner and outer race become visible in the frequency–cyclic frequency plane. Such fault signatures can not be produced by the traditional demodulation methods. Analysis results demonstrate effectiveness of the cyclostatonary analysis. The disassembled faulty bearing visualizes the fault.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2017;139(3):031007-031007-12. doi:10.1115/1.4035887.

The aerodynamics of a wind turbine is governed by the flow around the rotor, where the prediction of air loads on rotor blades in different operational conditions and its relation to rotor structural dynamics is one of the most important challenges in wind turbine rotor blade design. Because of the unsteady flow field around wind turbine blades, prediction of aerodynamic loads with high level of accuracy is difficult and increases the uncertainty of load calculations. An in-house vortex lattice free wake (VLFW) code, based on the inviscid, incompressible, and irrotational flow (potential flow), was developed to study the aerodynamic loads. Since it is based on the potential flow, it cannot be used to predict viscous phenomena such as drag and boundary layer separation. Therefore, it must be coupled to tabulated airfoil data to take the viscosity effects into account. Additionally, a dynamic approach must be introduced to modify the aerodynamic coefficients for unsteady operating conditions. This approach, which is called dynamic stall, adjusts the lift, the drag, and the moment coefficients for each blade element on the basis of the two-dimensional (2D) static airfoil data together with the correction for separated flow. Two different turbines, NREL and MEXICO, are used in the simulations. Predicted normal and tangential forces using the VLFW method are compared with the blade element momentum (BEM) method, the GENUVP code, and the MEXICO wind tunnel measurements. The results show that coupling to the 2D static airfoil data improves the load and power predictions while employing the dynamic stall model to take the time-varying operating conditions into consideration is crucial.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2017;139(3):031008-031008-12. doi:10.1115/1.4036054.

In this paper, a general methodology for designing carbon-neutral residential communities is presented. Both energy efficiency measures and renewable energy technologies are considered in the design approach. First, energy end-uses for the buildings within the community are optimized based on a set of cost-effective energy efficiency measures that are selected based on a life-cycle cost analysis. Then, renewable energy technologies are considered to meet the energy needs for the residential community and ensure carbon-neutrality on an annual basis. The methodology is applied to design optimal and carbon-neutral hybrid electrical generation systems for three Kuwaiti residential communities with different sizes and energy efficiency designs. For Kuwait, it is found that wind turbines can cost-effectively generate significant electricity to meet most of the energy needs for the residential communities and thus reducing the country's reliance on fuel-based power plants. Specifically, it is found that wind turbines can generate electricity at a cost of $0.068/kWh well below the current grid power production costs of $0.103/kWh. Moreover, the analysis indicates that concentrated solar power (CSP) can be utilized to achieve carbon-neutral residential communities but at a levelized energy cost of $0.13/kWh slightly lower than the current grid power generation and distribution costs of $0.133/kWh.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2017;139(3):031009-031009-16. doi:10.1115/1.4035818.

Performance of photovoltaic (PV) module decreases significantly with increasing cell temperature due to its overheating. Photovoltaic thermal (PVT) is an optimized technology that facilitates effective removal and utilization of this excess heat leading to enhanced electrical performance. In this article, a 3D numerical model has been developed and analyzed to investigate the PVT performance with a new pancake-shaped flow channel design. This flow channel is attached directly to the backside of PV module by using thermal paste. The governing equations are solved numerically by using Galerkin's weighted residual finite-element method (FEM), which has been developed using COMSOL Multiphysics® software. The numerical results show that the cell temperature reduces on an average 42 °C, and the electrical efficiency and output power increase by 2% and 20 W, respectively, for both aluminum and copper channels with an increase in inlet velocity from 0.0009 to 0.05 m/s. On the other hand, overall efficiency of the PVT system drops about 13% in both cases as the inlet temperature increases from 20 °C to 40 °C. Cell temperature is found to increase approximately by 5.4 °C and 9.2 °C for every 100 W/m2 increase in irradiation level of the PV module with and without cooling system, respectively. Regarding flow channel material, it has been observed that use of either copper or aluminum produces almost similar performance of the PVT module.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2017;139(3):031010-031010-4. doi:10.1115/1.4036179.

For low-concentration solar applications, v-reflectors are attractive choice to collect sunlight since they are simple to build with reduced manufacturing cost and technical requirements. In this paper, with the account for the power evolution of all possible reflection modes, careful modeling for the concentration ratio of such collectors was achieved and optimized by numerical methods in order to determine the optimal apex-angle that facilitates maximum utilization of the solar energy. The outcome of this research is interesting since it provides a useful recipe for an optimal design of v-reflectors that can be found in various solar applications.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2017;139(3):031011-031011-6. doi:10.1115/1.4036056.

The photovoltaic (PV) modules are in PV arrays normally connected in series and thus some of them are exposed to high system voltages since frames of the PV modules are grounded. To predict the long-term PV system energy output and PV module lifetime, it is very important to understand and take into account the degradation process of PV modules under high-voltage stress. Accelerated tests under damp heat (over 1300 h of DH85/60; RH = 85%, T = 60 °C) of in-house developed monocrystalline silicon PV modules with p-type solar cells were preformed while connected to a positive or negative voltage bias of 1000 V. The negative biased modules exhibited just a little degradation, while the positive biased modules degraded rapidly. We identified three degradation mechanisms: cell degradation, silver corrosion, and EVA evaporation. The degradation mechanisms contribute to almost 15% of the performance loss of the 1000 V positive biased modules after more than 1300 h of DH85/60 testing, while the power degradation of the negative biased modules remains below 3%.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

Technical Brief

J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2017;139(3):034501-034501-10. doi:10.1115/1.4035755.

A grid-connected dual-axis tracking photovoltaic (PV) system was installed in the Upper Midwest of the U.S., defined as a cold region, and then evaluated and monitored for a 1 year period. This system serves as a real-world application of PV for electricity generation in a region long overlooked for PV research studies. Additionally, the system provides an opportunity for research, demonstration, and education of dual-axis tracking PV, again not commonly studied in cold regions. In this regard, experimental data for the system were collected and analyzed over a 1year period. During the year of operation, the PV system collected a total of 2173 kWh/m2, which equates to 5.95 kWh/m2 on average per day, of solar insolation and generated a total of 1815 kWh, which equates to an energy to rated power ratio of 1779 kWh/kWp of usable AC electrical energy. The system operated at an annual average conversion efficiency and performance ratio of 11% and 0.82%, respectively, while the annual-average conversion efficiency of the inverter was 92%. The tracking system performance is also compared to a stationary PV system, which is located in close proximity to the tracking PV system. The tracking system's conversion efficiency was 0.3% higher than the stationary system while the energy generation per capacity was 40% higher although the PV module conversion efficiencies were not significantly different for the two systems.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2017;139(3):034502-034502-7. doi:10.1115/1.4035830.

Three grid-connected monocrystalline silicon photovoltaic arrays have been instrumented with research-grade sensors on the Gaithersburg, MD campus of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). These arrays range from 73 kW to 271 kW and have different tilts, orientations, and configurations. Irradiance, temperature, wind, and electrical measurements at the arrays are recorded, and images are taken of the arrays to monitor shading and capture any anomalies. A weather station has also been constructed that includes research-grade instrumentation to measure all standard meteorological quantities plus additional solar irradiance spectral bands, full spectrum curves, and directional components using multiple irradiance sensor technologies. Reference photovoltaic (PV) modules are also monitored to provide comprehensive baseline measurements for the PV arrays. Images of the whole sky are captured, along with images of the instrumentation and reference modules to document any obstructions or anomalies. Nearly, all measurements at the arrays and weather station are sampled and saved every 1 s, with monitoring having started on Aug. 1, 2014. This report describes the instrumentation approach used to monitor the performance of these photovoltaic systems, measure the meteorological quantities, and acquire the images for use in PV performance and weather monitoring and computer model validation.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

Design Innovation Paper

J. Sol. Energy Eng. 2017;139(3):035001-035001-8. doi:10.1115/1.4036055.

Commercial-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays were designed, constructed, and are now operational on the Gaithersburg, Maryland campus of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). A design–bid–build process was followed where the contractors used photovoltaic system modeling tools both during the initial design phase and during the postbid, prebuild phase. To help investigate the specific aspects of the contractors' evolving designs, the authors conducted their own independent photovoltaic system modeling. This independent modeling helped identify design elements that could be improved and so aided efforts to maximize the annual renewable energy generation. An estimated 2.5% gain in annual energy generation is being realized as a result of this independent modeling effort. To provide context for the modeling work and the lessons learned, key events impacting the design–bid–build process are described. The installed systems are summarized and also contrasted with the proposed designs. The power generation at three sites are compared over two different 12-month intervals.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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