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This work describes a Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) based control system for a concentrating solar thermal energy system. Concentrating solar thermal systems require precise tracking of the sun in order to operate most efficiently. Parabolic trough systems require at least one axis of tracking, while the heliostats used in “power tower” systems require two-axis tracking. The system described here uses a wireless sensor network, a single GPS receiver, and the ultra high accuracy solar position algorithm developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to control the tracking of the reflecting surfaces of a solar thermal system. A number of energy efficient methods are used within the WSN to optimize the system’s performance. Preliminary results are given showing correct networking and tracking system operation.
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