Artificial vision in solar thermal plants

In the last 15 years, solar thermal energy has become a reality reflected in the construction of tower plants and parabolic trough collectors (CCPs). Taking advantage of artificial vision technology, bcb has developed innovative systems for: automatic heliostat calibration, receiver temperature monitoring based on thermography, measurement of solar attenuation and degree of cleanliness of mirrors. In addition to the detection of hot oil leaks and inspection of tubes in CCP plants, among others.

bcb is possibly the company in the world that has calibrated and checked the most 120 m2 heliostats over the last 15 years: around 23,000 mirrors in countries such as China, South Africa, the USA or Spain. The first development was the automatic calibration, using artificial vision, of the 624 heliostats that make up the PS-10 thermoelectric solar plant, and of the 1,255 PS-20 mirrors, both designed and built by Abengoa and located in Seville. Also bcb has participated in projects such as Gemasolar in Spain, Tonopah in the USA and Khi Solar One in South Africa.

One of the latest projects has been carried out in China. It consists of a 50 MW LuNeng Haixi tower thermosolar plant located in the Tibetan plateau (Qinghai, China) and built by SEPCOIII. The plant, commissioned in the third quarter of 2019, is part of the renewable program launched by the Chinese government to reach a solar thermal installed base of at least 27 GW in 2030. A total of 4,400 heliostats make up its solar field, which occupies a surface area of 610,000 m2. The receiving tower is 181 m high and uses a molten salt receiver, allowing 12 hours of thermal storage.

Regarding plants with parabolic trough collectors, thermography is applied to detect defective tubes (buckling, banana effect and / or vacuum losses), hot oil leaks (HTF), status of valves, pumps, pipes and salt tanks. in case of storage. For this, three complementary platforms are used: fixed cameras with movement in azimuth and elevation, drones and ground vehicles.

To develop these activities, bcb integrates the thermal imaging cameras of FLIR, the world’s largest manufacturer of this type of sensors. As a distributor and integrator, recently appointed Key Industrial Partner, bcb offers high added value solutions using the most advanced cameras, adapted to the specific needs of each thermographic monitoring application. Likewise, its bcbMonitor 4.0 software platform, together with the use of IR cameras and other complementary technologies, allows it to offer the most complete monitoring solutions for each process.