Designs of conventional heliostats have been varied to reduce cost, improve optical performance or both. In one case, reflective mirror area on heliostats has been increased with the goal of reducing the number of pedestals and drives and consequently reducing the cost on those components. The larger reflective areas, however, increase torques due to larger mirror weights and wind loads. Higher cost heavy-duty motors and drives must be used, which negatively impact any economic gains. To improve on optical performance, the opposite may be true where the mirror reflective areas are reduced for better control of the heliostat pointing and tracking. For smaller heliostats, gravity and wind loads are reduced, but many more heliostats must be added to provide sufficient solar flux to the receiver. For conventional heliostats, there seems to be no clear cost advantage of one heliostat design over other designs.
The advantage of ganged heliostats is the pedestal and tracking motors are shared between multiple heliostats, thus can significantly reduce the cost on those components. In this paper, a new concept of cable-suspended tensile ganged heliostats is introduced, preliminary analysis is performed for optical performance and incorporated into a 10 MW conceptual power tower plant where it was compared to the performance of a baseline plant with a conventional radially staggered heliostat field. The baseline plant uses conventional heliostats and the layout optimized in System Advisor Model (SAM) tool. The ganged heliostats are suspended on two guide cables. The cables are attached to rotations arms which are anchored to end posts. The layout was optimized offline and then transferred to SAM for performance evaluation.
In the initial modeling of the tensile ganged heliostats for a 10 MW power tower plant, equal heliostat spacing along the guide cables was assumed, which as suspected leads to high shading and blocking losses. The goal was then to optimize the heliostat spacing such that annual shading and blocking losses are minimized. After adjusting the spacing on tensile ganged heliostats for minimal blocking losses, the annual block/shading efficiency was greater than 90% and annual optical efficiency of the field became comparable to the conventional field at slightly above 60%.