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Wireless Communication in Solar Power Towers

Contact Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Volker Turau
Start 1. December 2009
Financing Trinamic

Project Description

In project HelioMesh the Institute of Telematics will develop and investigate protocols for the wireless communication in large-scale, self-organizing networks optimized for time-critical applications. An exemplarily evaluation of these approaches takes place in a heliostat field.

To become independent of fossil fuels and to make a contribution to the climate protection, current research is focused on renewable energy. In the field of solar thermal energy collectors, power towers show great potential for future use, because of high efficiency in transforming solar into electrical energy combined with lower investment than comparable technologies like parabolic trough power plants. In power towers several thousands, movable flat mirrors (heliostats) focus sunlight on a receiver tower. The resulting thermal energy is used to produce electricity. Recent plants use wired field buses to control the individual heliostats. Disadvantages, such as the need of a comprehensive wiring or the vulnerability to lightning strikes, can be overcome by the use of a wireless field bus.

In technical fields like automation, facility monitoring and control an increasing interest in wireless technologies can be observed. For those scenarios a wireless field bus can combine various actuators or sensors with a central control unit. Unfortunately, current industry standards for wireless field buses such as ZigBee or WirelessHART are not suited for very large scale meshed networks of tens of thousands of nodes. This motivates the development of reliable communication protocols for the deployment in power tower plants within the HelioMesh Project.

Objectives for the communications protocols are fault tolerance, security, minimal latency for time-critical operations, and a high throughput. To meet the above requirements current techniques such as self-stabilization, clustering and dedicated routing protocols have to exploited. The evaluation of communication protocols is done in a field test. This gives information about the reliability and robustness of the distributed system, which is important to make necessary adjustments to the protocols. Furthermore the limited number of heliostats in the field test requires the additional use of simulation tools to demonstrate scalability of the protocols with an increasing node number.

The outcome of the HelioMesh project will be a prototype implementation of a self-organizing, wireless fieldbus system for large-scale networks.