Student Research Colloquium on

Advances in Engineering and Information Technology
Design and Simulation of Solar Devices for Satellite Based
Application using Comsol Multiphysics
Tithi Desaia, Sumathi Ayyalusamya, Ravishankar Dudhea*
School of IT and Engineering, Manipal University, Dubai, UAE


Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells are semiconductor devices that convert solar energy to electricity using
photovoltaic effect. These cells are commonly known as solar cells, or solar panels, and in 2012 around
93 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity was produced, which is enough to power over 20 million homes.
When designing solar panels, it is important all parameters are taken into account in order to minimize
the losses. In this paper we discuss two main solar energy generation devices namely Solar Dish receiver
and Solar panel array. We have varied various parameters of the solar dish array and simulated using
COMSOL Multiphysics how these parameters have an effect on the efficiency of the receiver. Also, we
have designed the model for solar array and simulated the effect of fluid flow load (wind speed 54km/hr)
on the solar panel efficiency.

Keywords: Solar dish receiver, solar arrays, heat flux, fluid flow load, comsol

1. Introduction

Use of solar technology has increased drastically in both domestic and industrial applications. This is
mainly due to the increased cost of electric supply and the desire to produce great amount of energy from
renewable sources. Based on their application these solar panels and dishes are produced in different sizes
and shapes. In industrial application, these panels are produced in array configuration, where each set
includes 3*4 or 2*3 panels close to each other with a small gap between them.
These panels are installed around 2 to 5 feet above the ground for ease of maintenance and air ventilation
purpose. Given the large surface area the aerodynamic forces acting on these modules could have a great
effect on the functioning of these panels. Hence the flow conditions and its interaction with the panel is
of interest to minimize the damage. [1,2,3]
In the past various studies have been made for solar arrays and fluid flow interaction. Chevalien and
Norton (1979) studied rows of solar panels on a model building in a wind tunnel and their sheltering
effects. Peterka et al (1980) carried out studies on Parabolic-Trough solar panels for industrial buildings.
Cochran (1992) worked on the frame loads for large arrays in turbulent boundary layer and how the gap
between panels might affect the aerodynamic loads on them. Kopp and Surry (2002) performed an
experimental research on the total system torque measured at the main drive gear box used for panel’s
solar tracking system. [4]

2. For the solar dish receiver. For the solar array we will be investigating the following: Solving for the fluid flow around the solar panel. where the free stream velocity above the solar panel is 15 m/s or 54km/hr. It has excellent application base due to its high concentrated ratio and collection ability.Dubai (2016) Solar dish collector is another power generation system. of 45 deg.7] In this paper. Dr. Non-uniform flux distribution can prove harmful to the system specially at high temperature solar thermal utilization as the cavity can get heated up and lead to partial crack and melting. the heat flux arriving as a function of the radial position arriving on the receiver is computed. surface roughness and limb darkening on the surface of the dish are considered. 3. we are seeing the flux intensity at the collector as a result of the parameters variation. a number of sub steps are required to reach the final flow solution.Manipal University. Configuration 3. Studying the deformation of the solar panel caused by the fluid load. and so the shape of the dish has the following form: . which can be used to power a generator. causing very high heat fluxes. Simulation Using Multiphysics To support the bottlenecks. This is used to generate steam. efficiency and life-span. Ravishankar Dudhe/ SOE&IT. f. b) Comsol structure of solar dish receiver A parabolic solar dish with a focal length. Due to the complexity of the flow field.2 Tithi Desai. or hydrogen. In the model discussed in the paper. α. simulation plays an important role where study of different parameters can be done and we can see how the solar arrays and dish receivers react to these change in parameters. COMSOL Multiphysics model has various physics that can be used to study various parameters and create realistic conditions to help the design engineer to tailor the parameters as per the required applications. (a) (b) Fig. High and uniform temperature of receivers can prove beneficial for its reliability. [5] The cavity receiver plays a very important role in the overall system as it aids in the solar-thermal conversion process. we are simulating both the solar dish receiver and the solar panel array. The experimental results are analysed to come up with conclusive and suggestive key point. of 3 m is constructed using the Parametric Curve feature. The dish has a rim angle. Corrections due to the finite size of the sun. used directly as a fuel source.1 Solar Dish receiver A paraboloid dish concentrates the solar energy received on a target (receiver). 1: a) A large parabolic dish collects incoming solar radiation and focuses it on a collector. [6.

there are 20 rays released in wave vector space to correct for limb darkening. we have set the absorption coefficient to 0. and 20 rays in wave vector space to correct for surface roughness. Rays are released from 540 distinct points. In this model. the array of solar panels acts as a rough boundary for the atmospheric flow. For each release point. meaning that 90% of the incoming radiation is reflected. Ravishankar Dudhe/ SOE&IT.Dubai (2016) (1) where s has the range : (2) Some of the incoming radiation is absorbed by the dish itself. uniformly distributed over the surface of the solar dish. 3: a) Front-view of the solar panel used in the fluid-flow simulation.1. Tithi Desai under the guidance of Dr.Manipal University. In the model we are assuming that enough panels are positioned both upstream and downstream of the panel for periodic flow conditions to be applicable in the stream wise direction. Fig.2 Solar Panel Periodic Flow Model The solar panel in question is located inside a regularly spaced array of panels subjected to an oncoming wind as shown in figure 2. The parameters considered for simulation are: Rim angle of the dish receiver Focal length of the dish Collector height and width 3. resulting in a total of 540 x 20 x 20 = 216.view of the solar panel including supports for the structural mechanics’ simulation . Seen from a position high above the ground. b) Back.2: The modeled solar panel (in red) located in a regular array of identical panels Fig.000rays.

Manipal University. 4. 4 Heat flux on surface of receiver for a) α= 45° b) α= 15° We can see from the table that the heat flux changes a lot with change in the rim angle. Table 2 shows the orthogonal array of the different parameters and figure 5 shows how it affects the heat flux.1 Solar Dish Receiver Table 1. the focal length becomes smaller and hence the heat flux on the collector surface reduces.4 Tithi Desai. CH = 30mm Collector width. The yellow marked is the highest which indicates that absorption coefficient plays important role in determining the heat flux. 5 Bar graph showing effect of various parameters on heat flux. CW= 100mm We change the rim angle from 15 degrees to 65 degrees and observe how the heat flux changes on the receiver. [8] (a) (b) Fig. Results and Discussion 4. Rim angle is inversely proportional to the heat flux. Table 2: Orthogonal array for variation of parameters .5GPa (5% the stiffness of solid aluminum) and Poisson’s ratio of 0. As we increase the rim angle.Variation of heat flux with α The initial values for the solar dish receiver are as follows Rim Angle. α= 45° Focal Length.33. Dr.Dubai (2016) The solar panel model is made of a material with stiffness of 3. Fig. Ravishankar Dudhe/ SOE&IT. fL = 3m Collector height.

(a) (b) Fig. the center of which . occurs in the panel’s upper-right corner. the upper-right corner of the panel is exposed to the highest pressure and strongest winds.colored by turbulent kinetic energy normalized by kinetic energy in the free stream. The flow field above the panel is of boundary layer type with a maximum velocity of about 15. The flow is fast at the top of the panel (red streamlines) and slow in the turbulent flow of the recirculation zone (blue and green streamlines). In the simulation below a recirculation one is observed between the panels in the array. Figure 7(a) shows the surface pressure on the panel where we can see the maximum pressure points on the panel. and in-plane velocity components 6 cm behind the panel. 6: Velocity streamlines. 7: a) Surface fluid pressure contours present and in-plane velocity components 6 cm behind the panel.4 m/s in the free stream. As we can see.2 Solar Panel Periodic flow Figure 6 shows the flow-field solution around the solar panel for an inlet-to-outlet pressure difference of 1 Pa.Manipal University. about 30 Pa. b) Displacement of the solar panel structure due to the fluid flow load In the above figure 7a we can see that the maximum relative pressure. Ravishankar Dudhe/ SOE&IT. Fig.Dubai (2016) 4. After simulation we can see the flow field in the center plane of the solar panel using a surface plot combined with velocity vectors at the inlet and outlet. A large stream wise vortex is generated behind the panel. Inlet to outlet pressure difference is 1 Pa. Tithi Desai under the guidance of Dr.

At the upper-right corner. I would also like to thank Dr. Largest displacement occurs in the upper right corner. 2008.Manipal University.worldenergyoutlook. www. about 0. No. It was shown that the rim angle has a significant effect on the heat flux of the collector in a solar dish receiver.116. 2013. collector radius plays a minor role in the determination of the heat flux. Aerospace Engineering Department. The European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC)policy report 16. 5. 2011. the fluid load on the structure at the current free stream velocity is not significant enough to dictate the design of the structure. 22-26 June. As the photovoltaic industry expands and solar panels become more and more energy efficient and cost effective. F.On the Flow of Air behind an Inclined Flat Plate of Infinite Span. Figure 7b shows the displacement of the structure due to the flow of wind. Texas A&M University (1979). Farid Zainudin. 3rd International Conference on Energy and Environmental Science. November. Ravishankar Dudhe/ SOE&IT.35mm. But as per the Taguchi analysis. Additional analyses and optimizations need to be carried out in order to see if the solar panel geometry discussed above could withstand stronger winds/pressure. Xiang Luo and Haiwang Li. proceeding of 11th American Conference on Wind Engineering. 2009.C. the maximum displacement value is very small. Ye Wang. Gan Leong Ming.We also simulated the solar panel periodic flow conditions for 54km/hr. It also points in the direction that for a solar panel positioned inside a large array. Chevalien.Dubai (2016) is aligned with the panel’s outer side. ICSEEA 2014. He-Ping Tan. Wind loads on solar collector panels and support structure. Conclusions With COMSOL analysis of the solar energy structures. Acknowledgements I would like to thank Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT). Journal of Solar Energy 82(2008)13-21. 2012. [4] World Energy Outlook. the designer can optimize the parameters in designing complex solar dishes and panels. . References [1] Fage. The change in collector height has no effect on the heat flux. Tanti ZanariahShamsirAli. Ravishankar Dudhe for guiding me through the project and helping me overcome the challenges faced during the execution of the project work. J.Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Billy Anak Sup. Xin-Lin Xia. [7] “Design and Optimization of a New Solar Dish Cavity Receiver/Absorber”. [3] Mehrdad Shademan. [6] Yong Shuai. we need to increase the durability of the solar panels.6 Tithi Desai. Rosli Abu [5] Concentrating solar power: its potential contribution to a sustainable energy future. the high pressure correlates with a high degree of deflection of the flow and formation of the stream wise vortex.Johanson.(1927) 170-197 [2] L.Radiation performance of dish solar concentrator/cavity receiver systems. [8] “Effect of rim angle to the flux distribution diameter in solar parabolic dish collector”. Yongkai Quan. Manipal Dubai Management and Research Centre for supporting me with my project and providing me with the resources required for the successful completion of the project. Dr. 773. 2nd International Conference on Sustainable Energy Engineering and Application. Mohd. Horia Hangan “Wind loading on solar panels at different inclination angles”. Norton. This indicates that the surrounding solar panels effectively shield the solar panel from oncoming flow. Guoqiang Xu. However. Executive summary. like what would be experienced in a violent storm with winds of up to 117km/h. Absorption coefficient and rim angle are most important factors for the heat flux.