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E

YE
WI

RE

F E A T U R E

By Loreto Valenzuela, Eduardo Zarza,


Manuel Berenguel, and Eduardo F. Camacho

lectricity generation from solar energy is currently one of the main research areas in the field
of renewable energy. Such systems require reliable control systems to maintain desired operating conditions in the face of changes in solar
radiation. Parabolic trough collectors, which are
the most developed line-focus concentrating solar collectors, are used to feed industrial heat processes thermally.
At present, parabolic reflectors can operate at temperatures up to around 400 C by concentrating the direct
solar radiation onto a tube through which a fluid is
pumped and heated (see Figure 1). Optical concentration
reduces the absorber surface area relative to the collector
aperture area and thus significantly reduces thermal losses. This optical concentration requires the collector to
rotate about a tracking axis, following the daily movement
of the sun. Since only direct solar radiation is optically

April 2004

concentrated, diffuse solar radiation is lost. One advantage


of parabolic trough collectors is the low pressure drop of
these systems as the working fluid passes through a single,
straight absorber tube.
This article describes the DISS facility, followed by an
explanation of the main control problem. The control
scheme for one of the three operating modes, the oncethrough mode, is then discussed, including system models,
feedforward blocks, and PI blocks. Finally, experimental
results and conclusions are presented.

Parabolic Troughs

Within the range of 200400 C, present-day parabolic


trough technology uses oil as a working fluid in the
absorber tubes, whereas a mixture of water and ethylene
glycol can be used for lower temperatures. The working
fluid is heated as it passes through the absorber tube of the

0272-1708/04/$20.002004IEEE
IEEE Control Systems Magazine

15

solar collectors, thus converting the direct solar radiation


into thermal energy. The hot working fluid is then sent to a
heat exchanger, where its thermal energy is transferred.

Acronyms
DISS
DSG
FFFV
FFIV
MISO
PI
PID
PSA
SEGS
SISO

Direct solar steam (the R + TD project)


Direct steam generation (the process)
Feedforward function feed valve
Feedforward function injector valve
Multiple inputs, single output
Proportional integral
Proportional integral derivative
Plataforma Solar de Almera (Spain)
Solar electricity generating system
Single input, single output

Steel Structure

Parabolic Trough
Absorber

Figure 1. A parabolic trough collector: working principle


and components. Solar radiation collected by a parabolic
shape reflector is concentrated on an absorber pipe located
in the focal line of the parabola and through which a heat
transfer fluid is pumped.

Figure 2. The DISS plant. The collectors are in the tracking


position following the sun when the plant is running.

16

For the last 15 years a considerable effort has been


made to develop efficient control systems for solar thermal power plants with parabolic trough collector fields
[1]. Currently, the best commercial examples of state-ofthe-art parabolic trough collectors are the eight solar thermal power plants operating in California. These plants,
called SEGSs, use oil as the heat transfer medium between
the solar field and the power block. The outlet of the solar
field is connected to a heat exchanger that generates
steam to feed a Rankine cycle [2].
Solar radiation, the primary energy source in these
plants, is not controllable. The temperature of the oil at
the outlet of the solar field is controlled by modulating
the oil mass flow at the field inlet. These systems possess nonlinear dynamics and are affected by several
types of disturbances, mainly in the energy input variable, which suggests the need for advanced control
strategies [1].
A parabolic-trough collector system prototype was
implemented in 19961998 at the PSA in southeast Spain to
investigate using water as the working fluid in the solar
field of a thermal power plant using a DSG process [3].
From 1999 to 2001, different operating strategies and configurations were evaluated, taking efficiency, cost, and
controllability into consideration, and promising results
were obtained for the commercial implementation of this
new system, which at present constitutes the most
advanced plant of this type.
The main industrial application of DSG is expected to
be Rankine-cycle electricity generation, in which steam is
delivered by the parabolic-trough collectors. The DSG
process increases overall system efficiency while reducing
investment costs, since it eliminates the oil used at the
SEGS plants as a heat transfer medium between the solar
field and the power block, and, consequently, the heat
exchanger is also eliminated. The electricity generation
cost will be reduced by 26%, according to current available data. Furthermore, a DSG solar field can be used to
feed other industrial processes requiring thermal energy
in the form of saturated or superheated steam at temperatures below 400 C and pressures below 100 bar. Desalination is a good example of an industrial process suitable for
being fed by a DSG solar field [4].
The main task of the control system is to provide a
steady supply of live steam at the outlet of the solar field
under all operating conditions. In the first stage of the DISS
project, financed by CEE-Joule contract JOR3-CT98-0277,
simple control structures and pragmatic approaches for the
controller design were chosen [3], [5], [6]. The advantage of
this approach is that the plant operators are already familiar with the PI or PID controllers used and are able to modify controller parameters to achieve secure operation, thus
allowing them to concentrate on the process itself. After
this training stage devoted to identifying plant dynamics

IEEE Control Systems Magazine

April 2004

Nomenclature

Figure 3. The Plataforma Solar de Almera. This aerial


view of the research center where the DISS plant is mounted
shows the CESA solar system with central receiver on the
left-hand side, the DISS collector loop in the center, and the
SSPS area on the right-hand side. Located in the SSPS area
are the CRS solar system with central receiver, the ACUREX
parabolic-trough collector field, a solar chemistry area, six
parabolic dishes with Stirling engines, a solar furnace, and
other solar facilities for research.
and operating modes, advanced control strategies, mainly
model-based predictive control schemes, will be investigated in an effort to optimize plant production.

The PSA DISS Facility


The PSA DISS facility is a solar system that serves as a testbed for investigating the DSG process in parabolic trough
solar collectors. Figures 2 and 3 show two views of the
facility; its main characteristics are listed in Table 1.
Although the solar field can operate over a wide range
of temperatures and pressures, the three main operating
points investigated in the DISS project are listed in Table 2.
The thermohydraulic behavior and system performance of
three basic operating modes, namely, once-through, recirculation, and injection modes (see Figure 4), were investigated under actual conditions to identify the specific
advantages and disadvantages of each mode.
In the once-through mode, feedwater is preheated,
evaporated, and converted into superheated steam as it
circulates from the inlet to the outlet of the collector loop.
The main disadvantage of this concept, which is the simplest of the three, is the controllability of the superheated
steam parameters at the collector field outlet. A water
injector is placed in front of the last collector to control
the outlet steam temperature. The water injector is placed
here since, by design, superheated steam is available at
this point. The injector is not placed at the end of the collector row, which would be advantageous for control,
because thermal losses in the last collector would significantly increase, thus reducing the energy gain. Moreover,
the selective coating of the absorber pipes would be
degraded if the metal piping reached temperatures of
around 450 C, which is possible when the system is working in operating mode 3 (see Table 2).

April 2004

Acol
E
K
Lcol
Lloop
P
T
Tamb
Tav
Ti
Tin
Tin c
Tinj
Tout
Tref
Sabs
afv
aiv
apv
em in
eT
hin
hin

hinj
hout
href
min
min c
minj dem
minj

set

minj
w

pfv
loop
col

IEEE Control Systems Magazine

Collector aperture [m]


Solar irradiance [W/m2 ]
Proportional gain (PID)
Collector length [m]
Collector loop length [m]
Pressure [bar]
Temperature [ C]
Ambient temperature [ C]
Average fluid temperature in the collector
loop [ C]
Integral time constant (PID) [s]
Water temperature at collector loop inlet [ C]
Water/steam temperature at collector inlet [ C]
Injection water temperature [ C]
Steam temperature at collector row outlet
outlet [ C]
Steam temperature reference [ C]
Absorber pipe area of the collector loop [m2 ]
Feed valve aperture demanded [%]
Injector valve aperture demanded [%]
Steam pressure valve aperture [%]
Inlet mass flow error [kg/s]
Temperature error [ C]
Specific enthalpy of water at collector row
inlet [kJ/kg]
Specific enthalpy of water at collector
inlet [kJ/kg]
Specific enthalpy of injection water at
collector inlet [kJ/kg]
Specific enthalpy of steam at collector
row outlet [kJ/kg]
Specific enthalpy reference of steam at
collector row outlet [kJ/kg]
Mass water flow at collector row inlet [kg/s]
Mass water/steam flow at collector inlet [kg/s]
Injection water flow demanded at collector
inlet [kg/s]
Injection water flow reference at collector
inlet [kg/s]
Injection water flow at collector inlet [kg/s]
Feed pump power [%]
Increment
Pressure drop across feed valve [bar]
Global collector loop efficiency []
Global collector efficiency []

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In the recirculation mode, the most conservative of


the three modes, a water-steam separator is placed at the
end of the evaporation section of the row of solar collectors. The amount of water fed at the inlet of the evaporator is greater than the amount that can be evaporated. In
the intermediate separator, the excess water is recirculated to the collector loop inlet,
where it is mixed with the preTable 1. Technical data for the PSA DISS test loop.
heated water. The excess water in
the evaporation section guaranParameter
Value
tees good wetting of the absorber
Collector row length
500 m
tubes and prevents stratification.
Collector type
Modified LS-3
The steam produced is removed
Collector aperture
5.76 m
from the water by the separator
Number of collectors
9 50-m-long collectors
2 25-m-long collectors
and is fed into the inlet of the
Orientation of the solar collectors
North-South
superheater section. This type of
Absorber pipe outer diameter
70 mm
DSG system is highly controllable
Absorber pipe inner diameter
50 mm
[6], but the excess recirculated
Optical efficiency of solar collectors
73%
water, the middle water-steam
Total mirror surface
2760 m2
Maximum pressure at the field outlet
100 bar
separator, and the water recirculaMaximum outlet temperature
400 C
tion pump all increase the paraMaximum steam production
0.85 kg/s
sitic load of the system.
The preheating, evaporation, and superheating
Table 2. Operating points studied in the DISS solar field.
sections are not precisely
defined in the onceSolar Field
Inlet Conditions
Temperature
Outlet Conditions
Temperature
through and injection
Conditions
Pressure [bar]
[ C]
Pressure [bar]
[ C]
modes. The length of
these zones depends on
Mode 1
40
210
30
300
Mode 2
68
270
60
350
the inlet water flow rate
Mode 3
108
300
100
375
and temperature, the pressure in the solar field, and
the radiation available. In the recirculation mode, the
superheating process starts in the next-to-last collector, but
the length of the preheating section and, consequently, the
starting point of the evaporation section are not precisely
Once-Through Concept
defined, depending in part on the operating conditions.
All three modes have advantages and disadvantages.
The investment costs and complexity of the once-through
mode are lowest, and this mode has the best perforInjection Concept
mance. On the other hand, the once-through mode is not
easy to control, requiring a more complex control system.
One of the objectives of the DISS project has been to
demonstrate that it is possible to operate the plant in the
once-through mode by guaranteeing flow stability and
acceptable controllability [3].

In the injection mode, water is injected at several


places along the row of collectors. The measurement system needed for control in this mode did not work properly during experiments [3], [7]. The complexity and cost of
this operating mode made it advisable to undertake new
developments.

Recirculation Concept

Control Problem
Figure 4. Basic concepts for direct solar steam generation in
parabolic trough collectors. In the once-through mode, water
is directly converted into superheated steam in the collector
row. In the injection mode, water is injected at several places
along the collector row. In the recirculation mode, there is a
water-steam separator placed in the middle of the row.

18

Solar radiation cannot be manipulated and is subject to


slow changes due to the daily cycle and in mirror reflectivity caused by dust, as well as fast changes, such as passing
clouds. The inlet energy of this plant is affected by these
disturbances, as well as by changes in the temperature or
pressure of the inlet water. While these effects are true of

IEEE Control Systems Magazine

April 2004

all solar plants with collector fields, in the particular case in


hand, the control task is still more complex than in California solar power plants [2] or others at PSA [1] because of
the two-phase flow, complicating the engineering of the system as well as the control system that must be designed for
the solar field. As mentioned earlier, the thermal fluid currently employed in other parabolictrough solar fields is synthetic oil, the
outlet temperature of which is controlled
by mass flow manipulation at the field
inlet. In the DISS test loop, both the temperature and pressure of the fluid must
be controlled to maintain the desired
steam conditions at the outlet as determined by turbine specifications.
Independent of the operating mode,
the main objective of the control system is to obtain
steam at a constant temperature and pressure at the outlet of the solar field in such a way that changes produced
in the inlet water conditions and in the solar radiation
affect only the amount of steam produced by the system,
and not its quality.

interactions, the SISO transfer functions of all relevant control loops (Table 3) were experimentally investigated for
the three different operating points defined in Table 2. System identification was used to estimate open-loop process
parameters such as gains, deadtimes, and time constants
that experimentally fit step response data. Based on the

The main task of the control system is to


provide a steady supply of live steam at
the outlet of the solar field under all
operating conditions.

Control Scheme for the


Once-Through Mode
The control scheme for the once-through mode presented
here has been designed, implemented, and tested within
the framework of the DISS project [3]. As the first step, the
main dynamics were approximated by linear models. After
studying the control scheme and analyzing possible loop

identified low-order models, PI controller parameters were


chosen by means of the process reaction method by simulating the closed-loop responses and by modifying the
parameters when necessary to provide safe stability margins [8], [9]. A final optimization of the parameter values
was made in subsequent tests at the plant. Additionally,
the control scheme designed for the once-through mode
includes mixed feedforward-cascade control schemes to
control the outlet steam temperature.
Some characteristics of the implemented PI functions
are as follows:

The PI output is calculated using a classical interactive controller. The transfer function of the controller has the form output = K (1 + 1/Ti s)error.

Table 3. Once-through mode: Models and PI control loop parameters.


PI Parameters
Control Loop
Feed pump
Outlet steam pressure
Outlet steam
temperature control via
injector valve (G1 master
loop, G2 slave loop)

Model
G(s) =

s2

0.1375
+ 1.322s + 0.3329

4.543103 s 5.05 105


s2 + 4.976 102 s + 9.693 105
a cs
G 1 (s) =
e
s+b
G(s) =

3.2 104
s + 0.2
a cs
G 1 (s) =
e
s+b

10

5.3 %/bar

184

0.0015 kg/s/ C

600

500%/kg/s
8 105 kg/s/ C

12
250

where a [1.365, 2.526], b [1.8 103 , 9.6 104 ]


and c [395, 750]
G 2 (s) =

April 2004

1.1%/bar

Ti [s]

where a [3.12, 8.13], b [5 103 , 6.6 103 ]


and c [70, 100]
G 2 (s) =

Outlet steam
temperature control via
feed valve (G1 master
loop, G2 slave loop)

Kp

3 102
s + 0.1

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20% kg/s

12

19

An antireset (integral) wind-up function to compensate for output saturation.


A set-point modifier to define the action to be taken
on a set-point change. The two options implemented

by a set-point change, whereas, in the second option,


the proportional contribution of the error is subtracted from the integral contribution, thus eliminating the jump in control output and resulting in
integral action only on a change in setpoint.

Bumpless manual-to-auto transfer.


The process diagram, including the
most important feedback loops for the
once-through operating mode, is
shown in Figure 5. The main control
loops for the solar field in the oncethrough operating mode are as follows:

Feed pump control loop: The rotational speed of the feed pump is
adjusted by a PI controller to maintain a specific
pressure drop in the feed valve, creating a flow in
steady state that is directly proportional to the valve

In the once-through mode, feedwater


is preheated, evaporated, and converted
into superheated steam as it circulates
from the inlet to the outlet of the
collector loop.
are PI and integral only on set-point change. The first
option causes a jump in the control output due to
the proportional contribution from the error created

FC

TC

FT

TT
PC
PT

Solar Collectors Row


TC

FT
LT

Final
Steam Separator

LC
Injection Line

Superheated Steam

FC
POT

Flash
Tank

Feed Pump

PDC

Feedwater Tank

Air Condenser

Equivalent
Turbine
Load

H.P. Steam

Vapor Feed

Feed
Preheater

L.P.

Legend
TT - Temperature Transmitter
FT - Flow Transmitter
PT - Pressure Transmitter
PDT - Pressure Drop Transmitter
LT - Level Transmitter

TC - Temperture Control Loop


FC - Flow Control Loop
PC - Pressure Control Loop
PDC - Pressure Drop Control Loop
LC - Level Control Loop

Figure 5. Diagram of the DISS test loop configured in the once-through mode. Four control loops comprise the
implemented control scheme. Although outlet steam pressure and temperature loops are the main control loops, there is an
additional controller for maintaining a constant pressure drop in the feed valve.
20

IEEE Control Systems Magazine

April 2004

Solar Collectors Row

TT
PC
PT

LC

LT

Middle
Steam
Separator

TC

FC

Recirculation
Pump

Final
Steam Separator

LC
Injection Line

Superheated Steam

LT
FT

Flash
Tank

Feed
Valve

Feed Pump

PDT

PDC

Feedwater Tank

Air Condenser

Legend
TT - Temperature Transmitter
FT - Flow Transmitter
PT - Pressure Transmitter
PDT - Pressure Drop Transmitter
LT - Level Transmitter

Equivalent
Turbine
Load

H.P. Steam

Vapor Feed

Feed
Preheater

L.P.

TC - Temperture Control Loop


FC - Flow Control Loop
PC - Pressure Control Loop
PDC - Pressure Drop Control Loop
LC - Level Control Loop

Figure 6. Diagram of the DISS test loop configured in the recirculation mode. Five control loops comprise the
implemented control scheme. Although outlet steam pressure and temperature loops are the main control loops, there are
three additional controllers for settling the recirculation water flow, the pressure drop in the feed valve, and the liquid level in
the middle separator.

opening. The feed pump control loop, therefore, provides a linearized flow relationship between valve
position and flow for PI control.

Outlet steam pressure control: The steam produced by


the collector row feeds a steam separator. The outlet
steam pressure is kept constant by adjusting a steam
control valve with a PI controller.

Outlet steam temperature control loops: The outlet


temperature control is achieved by inlet feed flow
control and water injection in the superheater. The
former control ensures that the steady-state inlet
flow matches radiation conditions, whereas the latter control is based on PI-feedforward control to provide rapid response to sudden disturbances by
means of water injection at the inlet of the last collector of the solar field.
PI functions for the first two control loops are implemented based on the process reaction method, and stability margins are determined by simplified linearized models

April 2004

(see Table 3). Outlet steam temperature control requires a


more detailed design because the process is strongly affected by disturbances at the inlet and by disturbance variables, and acceptable control cannot be achieved with
conventional PI or PID schemes. Contrary to the recirculation mode illustrated in Figure 6, in the once-through mode
there is no intermediate separator in the field that suppresses disturbances occurring in the preheating and evaporation sections, and the starting point of the superheating
section is not precisely defined. This condition reduces the
controllability of the once-through operating mode when
compared with the recirculation mode, in which the control loops are based on the following simple PI controllers:
recirculation pump control loop (recirculation flow controlled by PI control of the rotational speed of the recirculation pump), feed pump control loop (the rotational speed
of the feed pump adjusted by a PI controller to maintain a
specific pressure drop across the feed valve), middle steam
separator liquid level control loop (to maintain the level

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21

related to the uncertainty of the models obtained. Depending on the operating conditions (outlet steam flow production, temperature, pressure, and solar radiation available),
the gain, time constants, and time delays vary. The different model parameters influence the PI control design.
Therefore, once a set of PI parameters is chosen, closedloop simulations are performed by varying the model parameters to guarantee wide stability margins for the whole
range of model parameters. Consequently, the selection of
the PI parameters is conservative. The detailed schemes
are discussed in the following subsections.
Although interactions between loops exist, they are
small because the two slave loops, which are fast compared to the other loops, are able to reject slow disturbances due to the interactions caused by other loops.
The outlet steam pressure loop is also faster due to a
smaller time constant and no dead time and is thus able
to reject the disturbances coming from the slower temperature loops. Also, the temperature loops have an
inherent interaction reduction mechanism. As a result,
the interactions are canceled by the control strategy

around a nominal value, the feed flow is adjusted to control


the aperture of the feed valve whose pressure drop is being
controlled by the feed pump with P-PI control), outlet
steam pressure control loop (by adjusting the aperture of
the steam control valve in the steam separator with PI control), and outlet steam temperature control loop (by water
injection in the inlet of the last collector using PI control of
the injector valve). The last two control loops are the main
controllers of the system in recirculation mode used to
guarantee the steam quality at each instant. The remaining
controllers are needed to improve the behavior of the overall control system and for operational feasibility. The
method for obtaining the PI parameters is the same as
explained for the case of the PI controllers for the oncethrough mode.
The solution adopted in the DISS project for the oncethrough mode is to control the outlet steam temperature
with forward action. The parameters of the PI functions
appearing in these schemes are chosen using the process
reaction method and by studying the closed-loop system
stability margins. Parameters a, b, and c in Table 3 are

E
Tin
Tamb
Tinj
minj_set
Feedforward
Controller
FFFV

Tref

eT

PI

mff

Tout
min_dem

em_in

PI
Anti-Windup

afv

Plant

min

meT

Figure 7. Outlet steam temperature control based on forward action by means of a feed valve. The outer loop of the cascade
structure consists of a feedforward controller, which dictates the nominal feedwater flow, in parallel with a PI controller. The
inner control loop is a PI controller with antiwindup action.

Table 4. Specific enthalpy of the fluid: Parameters of the linear regressions.

Pressure [bar]
30
60
100

22

Phase

Temperature [ C]

a1

a2

R-square

Standard
Deviation [kJ/kg]

Water
Steam
Water
Steam
Water
Steam

100 < Tfluid


234 < Tfluid
100 < Tfluid
276 < Tfluid
100 < Tfluid
312 < Tfluid

21
+2225
34
+1940
54
+1480

4.38
2.54
4.48
3.12
4.61
4.10

0.99989
0.99868
0.99965
0.99686
0.99905
0.99415

3
7
7
11
12
15

< 234
< 400
< 276
< 400
< 312
< 400

IEEE Control Systems Magazine

April 2004

designed. These points will


be explained more fully in
the following sections.

Feedforward
Control of Outlet
Steam Temperature

Table 5. Thermal loss factor Ul in LS-3 collectors: b1 , b2 , and b3 values.


Fluid Average Temperature [ C]

b1

b2

b3

Tav < 200


200 < Tav < 300
300 < Tav

0.687257
1.433242
2.895474

0.00194
0.00566
0.01640

0.000026
0.000046
0.000065

Feed Valve Adjustment

Table 6. Average temperature values used in the FFFV controller


The great variations in solar
for the three operating points of the DISS test loop.
radiation and the long residence time of the fluid in the
Tav [ C]
Outlet Temperature [ C]
Pressure [bar]
Inlet temperature [ C]
field call for the use of feedfor30
210
300
237
ward action to anticipate the
60
240
350
277
effect of load changes on the
100
280
400
316
outputs to be controlled; that
is, the control system should
calculate the adequate value of the inlet mass flow in advance
As previously mentioned, the PI parameters of the outer
so that the outlet steam temperature remains within the and inner loops are calculated from open-loop responses
range of desirable reference values. The performance of the using the process reaction method for feed pump control and
system in the once-through mode depends on the inlet flow pressure control loops. Conservative parameters are chosen
control. Changes in solar radiation and inlet fluid temperature for the PI controller of the master loop, reducing interactions
require the flow rate to change to maintain the desirable out- with the temperature control loop using the injector.
put. If changes involve wide oscillations, the solar field perforThe feedforward action is obtained from the simplified
mance is strongly affected. Not only do thermal and pumping steady-state energy balance formulation for the collector
losses increase, but the relatively narrow margin between the row [13] given by
design maximum outlet temperature and the actual tempera
 
 

Energy
Enthalpy
Enthalpy
ture, which triggers the alarm signal, may be bridged by wide
{Losses}.
=

oscillations.
collected
in
out
To manage these instabilities, the outlet steam temperature control loop is a mixed cascade-feedforward control The collected energy is corrected using an estimated effiloop (Figure 7) aimed at guaranteeing a desired flow in the ciency factor that implicitly considers the optical efficienface of valve nonlinearities and changes in disturbances cy and, consequently, the optical losses. The simplified
affecting the loop (see Figure 7 and Nomenclature). The energy balance equation can be written as
feedforward term uses a process model to effect changes
(min + minj )hout (minhin + minjhinj ) =
in the controller output in response to measured changes
in the load before errors occur. The outer loop is comloop Acol Lloop E Ul S abs (Tav Tamb ).
posed of a feedforward function FFFV in parallel with a PI
controller with fixed parameters. Block FFFV calculates a In this equation, the specific enthalpy hout at the outlet is
nominal flow mff , and the parallel PI controller corrects replaced by the outlet enthalpy reference href , and the
this value according to the current output Tout . In a set- water flow rate minj injected in the last collector is
point change, this PI controller uses only integral action replaced by the nominal injection flow minj set established
because the new temperature reference also passes to the in the temperature control loop by means of the injector
FFFV block that calculates the nominal flow mff . The flow valve to avoid feeding back variations (that could be oscilmin dem calculated by this master loop is the input to the latory) dictated by the temperature control loop by means
inner slave PI control loop, which calculates a new aper- of the injector valve in the block FFFV . Such feedback deteture af v of the feed valve. The saturation included in front riorates the temperature response. Considering these subof the PI inner control loop limits the inlet water flow to a stitutions, the feedforward control equation used to
minimum value of 0.3 kg/s; this limitation guarantees tur- calculate the nominal feedwater flow mff to achieve the
bulent flow in the absorber pipes and consequently con- desired outlet temperature Tref is given by
strains the temperature gradients in the cross-sectional
mff =
area of the pipes that should be less than 50 C, which is a
loop Acol Lloop E Ul S abs (Tav Tamb )minj set (href hinj ) ,
temperature gradient limit from the point of view of the
href hin
pipe thermal stress.

April 2004

IEEE Control Systems Magazine

23

Tin_c
min_c
Tinj
minj_set
Feedforward m
ff_iv
Controller
FFIV

Tref

eT

PI

Tout
minj

minj_dem

PI
Antiwindup

aiv

Plant

minj

meT

Figure 8. Outlet steam temperature control based on feedforward action by means of an injector. The nominal injection flow
is dictated manually when the controller is operating in automatic mode. This nominal value is corrected by the output of the
outer loop of the cascade structure, which consists of a feedforward controller in parallel with a PI controller. The inner control loop is based on a PI controller with antiwindup action.

where loop was estimated from experimental data as 0.53;


Acol , Lloop , S abs are geometric parameters (Table 1); E is a
filtered value of the measured solar irradiance; href , hinj ,
and hin are specific enthalpy values calculated from the
outlet pressure P and the corresponding temperatures
Tref , Tinj , and Tin using
hfluid | P = a1 + a2 Tfluid

[kJ/kg],

where a1 and a2 are coefficients estimated by linear regression using the enthalpies and temperature values in thermodynamic tables [10] (Table 4). Ul is a factor related to
the thermal losses, which for an LS-3 type collector can be
approximated by [11]
Ul = b1 + b2 (Tav Tamb ) + b3 (Tav Tamb )2 ,
where b1 , b2 , and b3 depend on the average temperature of
the fluid in the absorber pipes (Table 5). To simplify the
control-loop structure, the average temperature Tav of the
fluid in the field is approximated by a constant value for the
three different operating points. Values based on inlet and
outlet conditions and conditions in the preheating, evaporation, and superheating sections are listed in Table 6.

Injector Valve Adjustment


The outlet steam temperature can also be controlled by
injecting preheated water into the last collector, providing
another degree of freedom to allow a fast reaction in the

24

outlet temperature; however, there are regular changes in


the outlet steam temperature of the previous collector, in
the steam flow rate, and in the injection water temperature
influencing the behavior of this loop. These changes are
more frequent and stronger in the once-through mode
than in the recirculation mode due to the lack of an intermediate separator.
A controller based on forward action has also been
designed for the outlet steam loop. The feedforward block
corrects the injection water flow rate at the inlet of the last
collector, taking into account changes in the collector inlet
temperature and mass flow, the injection water temperature, and the outlet temperature reference.
The mixed cascade-feedforward control scheme is
shown in Figure 8, where the cascade structure compensates for actuator nonlinearities. The outer loop is composed of a feedforward function FFIV in parallel with a PI
controller with fixed parameters. The output mff iv of the
block FFIV corrects the PI controller output meT . When
the controller is set in automatic mode, a nominal injection
water flow minj set is established at around 10% of the
expected steam mass production. The outer control loop
corrects this nominal value, and a new injection water flow
value minj dem is calculated and dictated from the injector.
This new value is the input for the inner loop, a PI control
loop, which determines a new aperture value aiv for the
injection valve. Injection valve nonlinearity detected during experiments is compensated by the cascade structure.
The saturation included in the master loop avoids zero

IEEE Control Systems Magazine

April 2004

50

40

30

20

10

0.8

240

0.7

210

0.6

180

0.5

150

0.4
Outlet Steam Temperature
Set Point
Inlet Water Flow - Feed Valve (Control Signal)
Injection Water Flow - Injector (Control Signal)

120

10

11

12
13
Local Time
(a)

14

15

Outlet Steam Pressure


Set Point
Feed Tank Pressure
Steam Valve Aperture (Control Signal)

35

16

0.0

0.9

800

0.8

700

0.7

600

0.6

500

0.5

400

0.4

300

0.3

32

15

24

10

16

0
16

15

15

900

20

14

14

64

40

12
13
Local Time
(c)

12
13
Local Time
(b)

0.1

1.0

25

11

11

0.2

1,000

48

10

10

0.3

72

56

30

09

30
09

0
16

45
40

60

Solar Irradiance [W/m2]

09

Pressure [bar]

0.9

270

90

Aperture [%]

Pressure [bar]

1.0

300

Flow [kg/s]

60
Power [%]

330

Flow [kg/s]

70

Pressure Drop Across Feed Valve


Set Point
Feed Pump Power (Control Signal)

Temperature [C]

0.2

200
Direct Solar Irradiance
Outlet Steam Flow

100
0
09

10

11

0.1

12
13
Local Time
(d)

14

15

16

0.0

Figure 9. Control loop responses during operation at 30 bar (22 April 2002): (a) includes the feed pump control loop
response, and (b) includes the temperature control loop response; (c) includes the outlet pressure control loop response, while
(d) includes the available radiation and generated steam flow.

Table 7. Design of the FFFV : Input data sets.


Input

30 bar
irradiance1

[650, 1000]
[0.40, 0.60]
[0.35, 0.70]
[280, 320]
[250, 310]
[180, 215]

Direct solar
Global collector efficiency1
Collector inlet mass flow
Outlet temperature reference
Collector inlet fluid temperature
Injection water temperature
1 Changes

60 bar
W/m2

[650, 1000]
[0.40, 0.60]
[0.350.70]
[320, 370]
[290, 370]
[220, 260]

kg/s
C
C
C

100 bar
W/m2

kg/s
C
C
C

[650, 1000]
[0.40, 0.60]
[0.35, 0.70]
[340, 400]
[330, 390]
[260, 300]

W/m2

kg/s
C
C
C

in this parameter do not have significant influence on the adjusted model.

Table 8. Outlet steam temperature control with injector valve: FFIV parameters.
Outlet Steam
Pressure [bar]

c1

c2

c3

c4

c5

R-square

Standard
Deviation [kg/s]

30

6.212 104

0.00313

1.7 106

3.0 106

0.00171

0.95035

0.00112

60

104

0.00505

4.4

106

106

0.00279

0.95219

0.00146

8.942 104

0.00494

4.2 106

5.8 106

0.00261

0.95167

0.00117

100

April 2004

8.457

7.1

IEEE Control Systems Magazine

25


flow rate dictated from the injector valve, since zero flow
rate would deteriorate the control action due to the nonlinearity of the injector when this actuator is nearly closed,
as was observed in real tests.
The PI parameters of the outer and inner loops were
also calculated from open-loop responses using the
process reaction method. Linearized models detailed in
Table 3 were used to simulate the closed-loop responses
and study the stability margins in the worst cases for the
model uncertainty. The final selection of values for the PI
parameters was made in a conservative way to avoid instability in the system and to diminish interaction with the
rest of controllers [8].
The feedforward action formulated for the feed valve
control loop is obtained from a simplified steady-state
energy balance formulation for the collector given by

40

30

20

10

Power [%]

Pressure [bar]

50

10

11

12
13
Local Time
(a)

14

45

+ minjhinj ) = col Acol Lcol E,

330

1.0

300

0.9

270

0.8

240

0.7

210

0.6

180

0.5
0.4

150
Outlet Steam Temperature
Set Point

120
90

30

15

0.3

Inlet Water Flow - Feed Valve (Control Signal)


Injection Water Flow - Injector (Control Signal)

60

0
09

+ minj )hout (min chin

where the right-hand side of the equation includes the


energy collected and energy losses.
Substituting the specific enthalpy at the outlet hout by
the outlet enthalpy reference href , which is directly calculated from the temperature and pressure references, the

60

Feed Pump Power (Control Signal)

09

10

11

12
13
Local Time
(b)

Flow [kg/s]

Set Point

(min

70

Pressure Drop Across Feed Valve

The collected energy is corrected by the global efficiency


col of the collector, which accounts for the thermal and
optical efficiencies and thus the thermal and optical losses.
The simplified energy balance equation can be written as

Temperature [C]


 
 
Energy
Enthalpy
Enthalpy
{Losses}.
=

collected
in
out

14

0.2
0.1
0.0
15

72

1,000

1.0

64

900

0.9

56

800

0.8

700

0.7

600

0.6

500

0.5

400

0.4

Feed Tank Pressure


Steam Valve Aperture (Control Signal)

30

48

Solar Irradiance [W/m2]

35

Set Point

Aperture [%]

Pressure [bar]

40

25

40

20

32

15

24

10

16

100

0
15

0
09

10

11

12
13
Local Time
(c)

14

300

Flow [kg/s]

Outlet Steam Pressure

0.3

200

0.2

Direct Solar Irradiance


Effective Radiance on Absorbers

0.1

Outlet Steam Flow

09

10

11

12
13
Local Time
(d)

14

0.0
15

Figure 10. Control loop responses during operation at 30 bar (26 April 2002): (a) includes the feed pump control loop
response, (b) includes the temperature control loops response, (c) includes the outlet pressure control loop response, and (d)
includes the available radiation and generated steam flow.

26

IEEE Control Systems Magazine

April 2004

response. The measured outlet steam


flow oscillated due to the circulation of
water through the steam flow transmitter, providing an incorrect signal. Outlet
steam temperature was maintained at a
constant temperature of 300 C. The
maximum steam temperature overshoot
and undershoot occurred when the
superheated steam production started at
around 12 noon; their values were 8 C
(2.7% of the reference) and 16 C (5.3% of the reference),
respectively, far from the steam saturation temperature,
which is 234 C at 30 bar. The steam pressure was maintained close to the reference throughout operation without
significant deviations.
Figure 10 shows the results obtained during an experiment in the once-through mode with 30 bar of outlet steam
pressure. The experiments objective was to evaluate the
response of the control system to a defocusing of one collector of the evaporation section, which is equivalent to
producing a 10% step decrement in the inlet energy to the
field. Collector number 6 was defocused at 13:15 and
stayed out of focus for 5 minutes. The resulting outlet temperature deviation was 21 C (7% of the reference). When
the temperature came close to the reference again, the
irradiance dropped 300 W/m2 , causing the temperature to
approach the saturation temperature value and changing
the outlet steam pressure around 0.8 bar (2.6% of the reference). Subsequently, the nominal conditions were recovered in 15 min. Prior to defocusing, the irradiance had
dropped around 150 W/m2 at 12:30, which mainly affected
steam flow. The outlet steam pressure was maintained
constant, and the maximum outlet steam temperature
deviation was 4.5 C.
Figure 11 shows the results obtained during a oncethrough mode experiment with 60 bar of outlet steam pressure. Outlet steam temperature was maintained constant
at 350 C, and the maximum deviation from this reference
was 6 C (1.7% of the reference). The temperature controller based on the injector valve adjustment was put in
automatic mode around 10:00, but the superheating
process started 45 min later. The dead time in response to
the steam temperature is due to manual control of the inlet
flow rate during the start-up (see also Figure 10). The operator put the feed valve temperature controller in automatic mode at around 11:00. The experiment finished at 15:45
when production was stopped.
The results show that all set points can be maintained during steady-state conditions, even with short
transients in the solar radiation. During longer solar
radiation transients, it is more difficult to maintain the
steam temperature, since a minimum flow must be guaranteed to avoid high temperature gradients in pipe
cross-sections when solar radiation recovers (in any

The DISS project demonstrated that it is


possible to produce high-pressure,
high-temperature steam directly in
parabolic trough solar collectors.
corresponding injection flow in steady state is given by
minj =

col Acol Lcol E min c (href hin c )


.
href hinj

Using this equation, thermodynamic tables [10] for calculating the enthalpies corresponding to each temperature
and pressure, and data obtained using the data series
detailed in Table 7, a regression analysis was performed to
obtain the feedforward function for calculating the injection flow rate correction. The multiple regression model
has the form
mff

iv

= c1 Tin c + c2 min c + c3 Tref + c4 Tinj + c5 .

The values obtained for the parameters c1 , c2 , c3 , c4 , and c5


at the various operating points are listed in Table 8. These
parameters depend on thermodynamic properties of the
fluid as well as the geometry and global efficiency of the
collector. Table 8 includes the correlation coefficient and
standard deviation of the residual errors. A good approximation is obtained within the operating ranges listed in
Table 7, but outside these ranges the quality of the model is
not guaranteed due to the nonlinear characteristics of the
process.
Both temperature control loops operate in parallel and
are necessary because the temperature control based on
the feed valve adjustment calculates a nominal inlet flow
rate for the field. Due to the long time delay caused by the
length of the collector loop, the temperature control loops
cannot react rapidly to sudden disturbances. The temperature control based on the injector valve provides a faster
control to compensate for sudden changes and allows the
outlet temperature to more accurately follow the reference. Interactions between both controllers are avoided by
the inclusion of parameter minj set in block FFFV and by
choosing conservative PI parameters in the case of the
temperature control by means of the feed valve.

Representative Experimental Results


The Symphony SCADA platform [12] was used to implement the controllers. Figure 9 shows the results obtained
during an experiment in once-through mode with 30 bar of
outlet steam pressure. During startup, the water pressure
in the feed water tank varied, affecting the feed pump

April 2004

IEEE Control Systems Magazine

27

70

330

0.9

300

0.8

270

0.7

240

0.6

210

0.5

60

50

40

30
20
Pressure Drop Across Feed Valve
Set Point
Feed Pump Power (Control Signal)

1
0
09

10

90

Pressure [Bar]

80
70

12
13
Local Time
(a)

14

15

Outlet Steam Pressure


Set Point
Feed Tank Pressure
Steam Pump Power (Control Signal)

90

60
09

14

15

16
1.0
0.8

700

0.7

600

0.6

500

0.5

400

0.4

300

0.3

20

10

4
0
15

12
13
Local Time
(b)

0.9

12

14

11

800

30

12
13
Local Time
(c)

0
10

32

16

11

0.1

900

20

10

0.2

1,000

40

0
09

0.3

36

24

50

120

10

28

60

Outlet Steam Temperature


Set Point
Inlet Water Flow - Feed Valve (Control Signal)
Injection Water Flow - Injector (Control Signal)

150

16

Solar Irradiance (W/m2)

0.4

180

0.2

200
Direct Solar Radiance
Outlet Steam Flow

100
0
09

Flow [kg/s]

Flow [kg/s]

1.0

Temperature [C]

360

Power [%]

80

Aperture [%]

Pressure [Bar]

0.1
0

10

11

12
13
Local Time
(d)

14

15

16

Figure 11. Control loop responses during operation at 60 bar (17 July 2002). (a) includes the feed pump control loop
response, (b) includes the temperature control loops response, (c) includes the outlet pressure control loop response, and (d)
includes the available radiation and generated steam flow.

case, null values of inlet mass flow led to zero production, which is commercially undesirable). In this transient situation, a mixed steam/water flow feeds the
separator tank where it condenses, returning to the feed
water through the separator drain valve, increasing the
parasitic load of the system as well as security. A control system configured to operate the plant with zero
inlet flow would have to satisfy stringent specifications,
mostly under actuator saturation. Such operation would
require that all the collectors be defocused to avoid
dangerous conditions in the solar field.

Conclusions
The DISS project demonstrated that it is possible to produce high-pressure, high-temperature steam directly in
parabolic trough solar collectors. A leading plant using
solar technology has been operated in two different
modes. This article describes the once-through mode,

28

which is the most difficult to control. Using a scheme


based on PI and feedforward controllers, the controllability of the plant is guaranteed on clear days and during
short transients in solar radiation. Longer transients in
solar radiation make it difficult to maintain the steam temperature in favor of guaranteeing a minimum flow to avoid
high temperature gradients in the cross-sectional area of
the collectors absorber pipes when the solar radiation
level is recovered.
A structure partially based on classical controllers was
chosen because the plant operators are familiar with this
type of controller and can adapt the controller parameters
in situations affecting plant dynamics and controller performance, such as modifications in plant layout or system
changes over time. In the near future, a control strategy
based on model predictive control will be investigated to
improve system performance under disturbances in the
system inlet energy.

IEEE Control Systems Magazine

April 2004

Acknowledgments
We thank the European Commission for support of the second phase of the DISS project (contract JOR3-CT98-0277)
within the framework of the E.U. JOULE Program. We
would also thank MCYT for funding this work under grants
DPI2002-04375, DPI2001-2380, and QUI99-0663. We thank
the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments that
improved the article.

References
[1] E.F. Camacho, M. Berenguel, and F.R. Rubio, Advanced Control of
Solar Plants. London: Springer-Verlag, 1997.
[2] G. Cohen and D. Kearney, Current experiences with SEGS parabolic trough plants, in Proc. 8th Int. Symp. Solar Thermal Concentrating
Technologies, Kln, Germany, 1996, pp. 217244.
[3] E. Zarza, L. Valenzuela, J. Len, D. Weyers, M. Eickhoff, M. Eck, and
K. Hennecke, The DISS project: Direct steam generation in parabolic
trough systems. Operation & maintenance experience and update on
project status, J. Solar Energy Eng., vol. 124, May 2002, pp. 126133.
[4] E. Zarza, Solar Thermal Desalination Project. Phase II Results & Final
Project Report. Madrid, Spain: Editorial CIEMAT. 1995.
[5] University of Manchester (UMIST), Zentrum fr Sonnenergie- und
Wasserstoff-Foruschung Baden- Wrttemberg (ZSW), PSA DISS test
facility: Control scheme design studies for once-through and recirculation concepts, Project DISS Int. Rep., Doc. ID: DISS-EN-CD-02, Plataforma Solar de Almera, Aug. 1996.
[6] L. Valenzuela, M. Berenguel, E. Zarza, and E.F. Camacho, Control
schemes for direct steam generation in parabolic solar collectors
under recirculation operation, submitted to Solar Energy J., 2002.
[7] M. Eck and M. Eberl, Controller design for injection mode driven
direct solar steam generating parabolic trough collectors, in ISES
Solar World Congress, Jerusalem, Israel, vol. I, 1999, pp. 247257.
[8] B.A. Ogunnaike and W.H. Ray, Process Dynamics, Modeling, and Control. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1994.
[9] R.N. Bateson, Introduction to Control System Technology. New York:
Prentice-Hall, 1996.
[10] W. Wagner and A. Kruse, Properties of Water and Steam. Berlin-Heidelberg-New York: Springer-Verlag, 1998.
[11] J.I. Ajona, Electricity generation with distributed collector, in
Solar Thermal Electricity Generation. Madrid, Spain: Editorial CIEMAT,
1999, pp. 777.
[12] Composer Series. Electronic Documentation Symphony. Elsag
Bailey Process Automation, Ohio (U.S.A), 19971998.
[13] D.R. Coughanowr, Process Systems Analysis and Control. New York:
McGraw Hill, 1991.

Loreto Valenzuela (loreto.valenzuela@psa.es) received


the B.S. in physics and the electronics engineering degree
from University of Granada in 1994 and 1996, respectively.
She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in the University of
Almera. She joined the Plataforma Solar de Almera in 1997
to work as technical assistant in the Department of Parabolic-trough Collectors, and in 2000 she took a position within
the research staff of the CIEMAT (the public research center leading research on renewable energy in Spain). Her
research interests are in solar thermal concentrating tech-

April 2004

nologies and control systems for solar energy systems. She


can be contacted at CIEMAT, Plataforma Solar de Almera,
Ctra. Senes s/n, E-04200 Tabernas, Almera, Spain.
Eduardo Zarza earned the industrial engineering degree
from University of Seville in 1985, where he is a member of
the Scientific Group of Thermodynamics and Renewable
Energies. Since 1985 he has participated in many international R&TD projects regarding solar thermal energy applications. From 1990 to 1994 he was the project manager of
the Solar Thermal Desalination Project. In 1994 he undertook the coordination and management of the DISS project,
thus leading an international group of researchers involved
in the development of the DSG technology. Since 1997, he
has been the head of the Department of Parabolic-trough
Collectors of CIEMAT, where he conducts research on innovative solar energy applications and systems.
Manuel Berenguel is an associate professor in the Departamento de Lenguajes y Computacin (rea de Ingeniera
de Sistemas y Automtica) of the University of Almera,
Spain. He earned the industrial engineering degree and doctorate from the Escuela Superior de Ingenieros Industriales
of the University of Sevilla (Spain), where he received the
Premio Extraordinario de Doctorado award (given to the
best engineering thesis of the year), and he was a
researcher and associate professor in the Departamento de
Ingeniera de Sistemas y Automtica for six years. His
research interests are in the fields of predictive, adaptive,
and robust control, with applications to solar energy systems, agriculture, and biotechnology. He has been a reviewer for several journals including Control Engineering
Practice; IEEE Transactions on System, Man and Cybernetics;
and IEEE Transactions on Fuzzy Systems. He has authored
and coauthored more than 50 technical papers and is coauthor of Advanced Control of Solar (Springer, 1997).
Eduardo F. Camacho is a professor of system engineering
and automatic control at the University of Seville. He has
written the books Model Predictive Control in the Process
Industry (Springer-Verlag, 1995), Advanced Control of Solar
Plants (Springer-Verlag, 1997), Model Predictive Control
(Springer-Verlag, 1999), and Control e Instrumentacin de
Procesos Qumicos (Ed. Sintesis). He has authored and coauthored more than a 150 technical papers, has served on
various technical committees, and was a member of the
2001 Board of Governors of the IEEE Control Systems Society. At present he is the chair of the IEEE Control Systems
Society International Affairs Committee, vice president of
the European Control Association, and chair of the IFAC
Publication Committee. He is one of the editors of Control
Engineering Practice and an associate editor of the European Journal of Control.

IEEE Control Systems Magazine

29