Design of a Scalable Solar Concentrator for Use with a Solar Thermal Electricity Generation System

MIT Lincoln Laboratory

MIT Lincoln Laboratory Team: Yari Rodriguez, Stephanie Erickson, Brianne Connizzo

2009-2010: In collaboration with MIT Lincoln Laboratory, this student team designed a solar-concentrator to increase the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of solar thermal electric (STE) technology on the residential scale.  Such technology already exists on the industrial scale, but has yet to be scaled for residential use.

After reviewing existing industrial STE systems, the team generated a wide range of conceptual designs for solar concentrators to collect and focus solar radiation.  Based on criteria for residential use, the team then narrowed to one design: a Fresnel Lens Array, which uses Fresnel lens technology to concentrate incident light to a focal point on a solar thermal serpentine receiver located below the array.  The team then designed, built, and tested six iterations of the Fresnel lens array design, both outside and under simulated conditions in the laboratory.  In parallel, they developed an increasingly complex heat-transfer model in MATLAB to simulate prototype performance, evaluate different operating conditions, and inform design modifications.

Results from the team’s final prototype and model suggest that solar-thermal electricity generation is possible on the residential scale with such a Fresnel array concentrator design.  The team delivered their final prototype and heat-transfer model to MIT Lincoln Laboratory for further development, testing, and ultimate transfer to industry for commercialization.