Point of Contact: Dr. James Blackmon, email: james.blackmon@uah.edu

Solar Laboratory

The PRC Solar Laboratory

The Solar Energy Test Facility (SETF) was originally developed in the 1990’s for testing various flat plate solar thermal collectors. Its capabilities were extended to include a ~10-ft diameter parabolic concentrator for “solar furnace” and solar thermal rocket test. With the addition of a vacuum chamber and quartz windows, it was used to test optical properties of high temperature materials, including shield materials for a near-sun orbit satellite. Tests have also been conducted on a novel chain drive heliostat drive unit (patent pending) that incorporates special low-cost damping mechanisms to avoid the high impact loads from wind gusts exerted on conventional heliostats. The novel load configuration provides a constant static load with superimposed gust loads to more fully simulate actual wind load and gust conditions. That drive unit was subjected to thousands of cycles over several weeks to simulate the fatigue equivalent life of over 150 years, compared to the usual 30-year life, and it is still operational. The area has also been used to test Army remote power systems based on solar photovoltaic collectors coupled in a hybrid mode for use with conventional mobile/remote power generation.