Heat losses from parabolic trough solar collectors



Parabolic trough solar collector usually consists of a parabolic solar energy concentrator, which reflects solar energy into an absorber. The absorber is a tube, painted with solar radiation absorbing material, located at the focal length of the concentrator, usually covered with a totally or partially vacuumed glass tube to minimize the heat losses. Typically, the concentration ratio ranges from 30 to 80, depending on the radius of the parabolic solar energy concentrator. The working fluid can reach a temperature up to 400°C, depending on the concentration ratio, solar intensity, working fluid flow rate and other parameters. Hence, such collectors are an ideal device for power generation and/or water desalination applications. However, as the length of the collector increases and/or the fluid flow rate decreases, the rate of heat losses increases. The length of the collector may reach a point that heat gain becomes equal to the heat losses; therefore, additional length will be passive. The current work introduces an analysis for the mentioned collector for single and double glass tubes. The main objectives of this work are to understand the thermal performance of the collector and identify the heat losses from the collector. The working fluid, tube and glass temperature's variation along the collector is calculated, and variations of the heat losses along the heated tube are estimated. It should be mentioned that the working fluid may experience a phase change as it flows through the tube. Hence, the heat transfer correlation for each phase is different and depends on the void fraction and flow characteristics. However, as a first approximation, the effect of phase change is neglected. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.