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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

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