A new class of objects was added in Energy2D
to model what is called a heliostat
, a device that can automatically turn a mirror to reflect sunlight to a target no matter where the sun is in the sky. Heliostats are often used in solar thermal power plants
or solar furnaces
that use mirrors. With an array of computer-controlled heliostats and mirrors, the energy from the sun can be concentrated on the target to heat it up to a very high temperature, enough to vaporize water to create steam that drives a turbine to generate electricity.
|Image credit: Wikipedia|
The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility
in California's Mojave Desert, which went online on February 13, 2014, is currently the world's largest solar thermal power plant. With a gross capacity of 392 megawatts, it is enough to power 140,000 homes. It deploys 173,500 heliostats, each controlling two mirrors.
A heliostat in Energy2D contains a planar mirror mounted on a pillar. You can drop one in at any location. Once you specify its target, it will automatically reflect any sunlight beam hitting on it to the target.
Strictly speaking, heliostats are different from solar trackers
that automatically face the sun like sunflowers. But in Energy2D, if no target is specified, as is the default case, a heliostat becomes a solar tracker. Unlike heliostats, solar trackers are often used with photovoltaic (PV) panels that absorb, instead of reflecting, sunlight that shine on them. A future version of Energy2D will include the capacity of modeling PV power plants as well.