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Artificial vision enables solar field calibration overnight

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William Carter
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Researchers have developed a prototype for calibrating an entire solar field in a single night, shaving months off the current calibration system for large size Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) tower plants.

In tower CSP, an encircling solar field of thousands of heliostats (specialized mirrors) must continuously and precisely reflect concentrated beams from always-moving sunlight onto a tower receiver at distances ranging up to 1,600 meters.

Their innovation is applying artificial visual digital systems to accurately "see" the target with pixel point accuracy, more precisely than human vision, and to do this they integrate digital cameras into each of the heliostats, making it possible to calibrate an entire solar field in just a few hours.

"With our visual calibrating system we can ensure tracking accuracy for the life of the plant, because we can calibrate every night," said Marcelino Sanchez, who directs the solar thermal energy department at Spain's Centro Nacional de Energías Renovables (CENER).

All CSP plants use computerized systems to tell each of the thousands of individual heliostats in a solar field how to move, using servo motors that precisely control their motion.

Each heliostat keeps its own reflected "sun" focused on the tower receiver as the sun moves across the sky and as the season changes.

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