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Method and System for Optimizing Secondary Reflectors in Solar Collectors

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

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Technology Marketing Summary

Concentrating solar power collectors generate electricity by harnessing the thermal energy of sunlight, and Transparency Market Research projects the global concentrated solar power market will grow at a CAGR of 20.3% to $8.67 Billion in 2020. Concentrating solar collectors use an array of mirrors or lenses that track the sun to reflect sunlight onto an absorbing medium which drives a turbine to generate power, or heat can be stored in molten salts to generate power at a time when demand is greater. The compound effect of reflection errors caused by imperfect mirror specularity, mirror slope error, mirror tracking error, and absorber position error often necessitates the use of a secondary reflector closer to the absorber to refocus reflected sunlight on the target. To generate the greatest amount of power possible it is crucial that the secondary reflector is optimized for the design of the collector system.


Researchers at NREL have created a novel method and system for designing a secondary reflector that will focus the maximum amount of thermal energy onto an absorber. The method and system is adaptive and determines the optimum surface point of a secondary reflector based on both geometrical and optical aspects of the collector so that the final design is optimized over the entire collector system. The technique has been demonstrated on a linear Fresnel reflector and can be applied to systems with flat, circular, or parabolic reflectors as well as one or multiple absorber configurations. It can also be applied to point-focus collectors (solar thermal or photovoltaic) in which a secondary reflector is required.

  • Increased power generation
  • Adaptable to different collector configurations
Applications and Industries
  • Utility solar
  • Concentrating solar collectors
  • Concentrating photovoltaic collectors
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
NREL ROI 16-92ProposedAvailable06/12/201706/12/2017

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To: Erin Beaumont<>