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High Performance, Low Cost

SkyTrough is SkyFuel’s high performance parabolic trough solar concentrator for use in utility grade solar thermal power plants for generating electricity or for industrial process heat applications.  

SkyTrough uses lightweight, glass-free, slide-in reflective mirror panels made with ReflecTechPLUS mirror film. These mirror panels and the supporting aluminum space frame are lightweight and easy to manufacture, ship and deploy. They also significantly reduce construction time and cost compared to conventional glass-mirror-based parabolic trough collectors.

SkyTrough is based on proven parabolic trough geometry but incorporates several innovative features that set it apart from previous trough designs:

1.  Shatterproof, glass-free reflector panels made with ReflecTechPLUS mirror film
2.  Lower cost reflector panels that are two times faster to install than conventional glass mirrors
3.  Lighter aluminum space frame with fewer parts than conventional torque tube or torsion box trough designs
4.  Field assembly at least two times faster than conventional trough designs
5.  Larger diameter and longer receiver tubes to reduce cost and increase performance
6.  More robust, higher performance and lower cost tracking, drive and control system
7.  Compact shipping

Designed for Cost Reduction

SkyFuel took an integrated design approach to reduce the cost of SkyTrough without compromising performance or durability. The result of this process is seen in three key areas where SkyTrough is able to achieve significant cost reduction.

Mass Reduction

First, we addressed the two most important cost drivers for parabolic trough collectors: material mass and part count. SkyTrough reduces the mass of the space frame by 30% and its part count by 40% per unit area of mirror aperture as compared to the trough design deployed at the Nevada Solar One plant in 2007.

Fast Assembly

Second, fewer parts result in a system that is much simpler and faster to assemble. On-site assembly time required for SkyTrough’s space frame (per unit area of mirror aperture) is half that was needed for the trough frames at Nevada Solar One. SkyTrough assembly process requires few specialized skills and uses a joint fastening system that is long proven and standard practice in the aerospace industry.

Reliable, Accurate Tracking

Third, SkyTrough uses a robust and reliable hydraulic drive system and the first commercial wireless controller, eliminating all field cabling except for the power supply to the controller itself. The OnSun tracking, control and drive system constantly and accurately positions SkyTrough to collect the maximum available solar radiation. OnSun consists of the SkyTrakker control system, manufactured by SkyFuel, and a customized L30 helical, hydraulic rotary actuator, manufactured by the Helac Corporation.  Together, these technologies deliver superior performance and reliability; reduce operating cost; and simplify the installation of parabolic trough solar fields.

Designed for High Performance and Reliability

SkyTrough draws upon the engineering and operational experience of past and proven parabolic trough designs to innovate for better performance and reliability.  

Unbreakable Reflectors

Use of ReflecTechPLUS mirror film eliminates the possibility of mirror breakage. In conventional trough designs the curved glass mirror panels frequently shatter, even in moderate winds common to desert regions. Breakage occurs most typically along the perimeter of the trough fields where wind exposure is the highest. But glass mirrors can be vulnerable in any part of a large field and often falling shards from one broken mirror panel can break the glass envelope sleeve of a receiver tube and/or another mirror panel. The elimination of mirror breakage through the use of ReflecTechPLUS film reduces operating and maintenance (O&M) costs and downtime.

Highly Accurate Optics

SkyTrough’s design uses mostly standard tolerance components that, once assembled, form a highly accurate and rigid parabolic reflector. Extensive testing of SkyTrough by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) confirmed that SkyFuel’s glass-free, aluminum space framed system has the highest optical accuracy seen to date in parabolic trough collector technology and an overall thermal performance of the highest standard for parabolic trough systems.