eSolar’s Heliostats Capture Sunlight to be Used for Fresh Water and Renewable Energy Production

Solar collector system is a key ingredient of Sundrop Farms’ agribusiness greenhouse facility in Port Augusta, South Australia

BURBANK, Calif. – November 7, 2016 – eSolar® is extremely proud to be part of Sundrop Farms’ first commercial greenhouse facility in Port Augusta, South Australia which officially opened on October 6th.  There have been several excellent articles (see list below) published which give a great overview of Sundrop Farms and this particular site–this article is different. This article focuses on how the eSolar’s Solar Collector System (SCS) plays a pivotal role at Sundrop Farms Port Augusta and what enables eSolar to build the lowest-cost, easiest to install, easiest to maintain, and highest-reliability SCS in the industry.

eSolar’s Solar Collector System (SCS) is made up of a few main parts. The most obvious and visible part is the thousands of heliostats, or powered mirrors, which rotate on two axes. The second main part of the SCS is eSolar’s control system, known as Spectra™, which knows precisely where each heliostat is, can compute a unique path for each heliostat, and can integrate with the rest of the plant.

In late 2014 Aalborg CSP, developer and turnkey supplier of the energy system in Port Augusta, invited eSolar to bid on a 50,000 square meter solar field for a concentrated solar power (CSP) plant. At the time it was unclear what the final application would be, but eSolar got started the way all projects start, optimizing the plant layout. A key part of eSolar’s product portfolio is its plant modelling software. The core of the modelling software is a proprietary, highly-parallelized ray-tracing and solar flux analysis toolset which allows eSolar to optimize the plant design before any ground is cleared away or heliostats are placed. Beyond plant optimization, this also allows eSolar to provide options to our customer, allowing them to see the trade-offs of size, performance and costs as various options are considered. eSolar’s modelling software has been compared against months and years of actual plant output to validate that plant predictions match actual plant output.

Once the plant layout was established, an order for parts was made and production began. eSolar has a set of prequalified vendors ready to build the parts of eSolar’s SCS. eSolar provides quality assurance software and test harnesses to many of our vendors so that they can test the parts they build and ensure the parts meet our standards before sending them on to the next stage or to the plant. The Sundrop Farms plant was built with our current prequalified vendors, but eSolar’s hardware is designed for manufacturability and localization – so eSolar can train and qualify new vendors to build eSolar parts with in-country companies.

Installation of a solar field is always a big task, but eSolar’s small heliostat and its unique design make the big task easily achievable with local unskilled labor. eSolar constructed the field of nearly 24,000 heliostats in just 4 months with a small field team all of whom were local and trained on site. See the images below. Some example of how easy eSolar makes it to install the field: only a single sized ratchet wrench is required to construct the heliostats on site, heliostats are prewired and snap together, and GPS is used to ensure that that rows and columns are aligned properly. Another unique element in eSolar’s approach and its emphasis on quality assurance is that as each row is completed the heliostats are operationally checked out again using eSolar’s Mobile Heliostat Controller, helping to identify any heliostat which may not operate properly for early removal or repair.

In order to acheive the accuracy required, eSolar needs to know the precise position and orientation of each heliostat after installation.  Our process to do this is called calibration which is another key component of Spectra™. eSolar does not have to wait until the field installation is complete: calibration can begin immediately on an installed heliostat while others are still being installed. Also, eSolar’s patented calibration can be conducted both day and night. This way eSolar can ensure that once the field is completed, it will be ready to capture solar energy as soon as the customer is ready for it.

While field construction and calibration are underway, plant integration can also proceed. A key design feature of Spectra™ is its flexibility to integrate with the rest of the plant using industrial automation standards. eSolar and its customer agree upon the exchanged data and control mechanisms and eSolar can customize Spectra™ for each plant’s specific needs. Once the plant has its control systems in place, eSolar and the plant operators conduct testing of that integration.

When the field installation, calibration, and plant integration testing are complete, and the plant has completed constructing its key elements like the solar receiver, the real interesting testing can begin. We posted an article back in June on the initial parts of that testing. We tested various safety mechanisms, and then we tested putting solar flux on the receiver and slowly ramped up until we created steam.

Today the plant is fully operational. Each day eSolar’s SCS ensures the sun’s rays are directed at the receiver as the plant requires. That heat captured there generates steam which is used to desalinate sea water and generate electricity and heating for Sundrop Farms’ 20-hectare greenhouse. This plant is a world-first as it combines the aspects of a concentrating solar power and desalination plant with a greenhouse farm. Take a look below at some of the pictures from the site construction and visit eSolar.com or email info@eSolar.com to learn more.

Article List: Articles about the opening of Sundrop Farms’ tomato farm in Port Augusta, South Australia

Single frame taken from time lapse camera. October 9th 2015 at 9:35 just a few days after heliostat installation began.  Image courtesy of Aalborg CSP

Single frame taken from time lapse camera. October 9th 2015 at 9:35 just a few days after heliostat installation began.
Image courtesy of Aalborg CSP

Single frame taken from time lapse camera. November 15th, 2015 at 8:45 about 6 weeks into heliostat installation. Image courtesy of Aalborg CSP

Single frame taken from time lapse camera. November 15th, 2015 at 8:45 about 6 weeks into heliostat installation.
Image courtesy of Aalborg CSP

Single frame taken from time lapse camera. December 20th, 2015 at 8:50am about 11 weeks into heliostat installation. Image courtesy of Aalborg CSP

Single frame taken from time lapse camera. December 20th, 2015 at 8:50am about 11 weeks into heliostat installation.
Image courtesy of Aalborg CSP

Single frame taken from time lapse camera. January 21st, 2016 at 8:50am about 16 weeks into heliostat installation. Image courtesy of Aalborg CSP

Single frame taken from time lapse camera. January 21st, 2016 at 8:50am about 16 weeks into heliostat installation.
Image courtesy of Aalborg CSP

eSolar uses its Mobile Heliostat Controller to allow moving and testing heliostats immediately after installation. Image by J. Risner with permission from Sundrop Farms. (c) Copyright eSolar

eSolar uses its Mobile Heliostat Controller to allow moving and testing heliostats immediately after installation.
Image by J. Risner with permission from Sundrop Farms. (c) Copyright eSolar

An early pointing test in mid-January 2016. Since eSolar can start calibrating its heliostats while the field is still being constructed, eSolar is ready to point accurately as soon as the receiver is ready. In this image, you can see that the pointing test target screen had recently been installed and the pointing tests were just turned on and eSolar was right on target. Image by J. Risner with permission from Sundrop Farms. (c) Copyright eSolar

An early pointing test in mid-January 2016. Since eSolar can start calibrating its heliostats while the field is still being constructed, eSolar is ready to point accurately as soon as the receiver is ready. In this image, you can see that the pointing test target screen had recently been installed and the pointing tests were just turned on and eSolar was right on target.
Image by J. Risner with permission from Sundrop Farms. (c) Copyright eSolar

A reflection from an eSolar heliostat of solar flux on the Sundrop Farms' receiver, while a pointing test is proceeding on the target screen. Rainbow in distance. Despite the clouds and bit of rain this day, eSolar was able to collect plenty of solar energy for Sundrop Farms. Image by J. Risner with permission from Sundrop Farms. (c) Copyright eSolar.

A reflection from an eSolar heliostat of solar flux on the Sundrop Farms’ receiver, while a pointing test is proceeding on the target screen. Rainbow in distance. Despite the clouds and bit of rain this day, eSolar was able to collect plenty of solar energy for Sundrop Farms.
Image by J. Risner with permission from Sundrop Farms. (c) Copyright eSolar.

Steam blow testing at Sundrop Farms Port Augusta mid-July, 2016. Image courtesy of Sundrop Farms. (c) Copyright Sundrop Farms

Steam blow testing at Sundrop Farms Port Augusta mid-July, 2016.
Image courtesy of Sundrop Farms. (c) Copyright Sundrop Farms

A typical day at Sundrop Farms. Flux on the receiver, pointing tests continuing, water be desalinated, electricity being produced and tomatoes growing. Image courtesy of Sundrop Farms. (c) Copyright Sundrop Farms

A typical day at Sundrop Farms. Flux on the receiver, pointing tests continuing, water being desalinated, electricity being produced, and tomatoes growing.
Image courtesy of Sundrop Farms. (c) Copyright Sundrop Farms

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