Located at DLR in Cologne-Porz, this test facility is especially being used for demonstration purposes and performance tests with line focusing collectors. It was constructed in 1999 and has been regularly expanded ever since.
A heating and cooling module supplies water to the solar field at temperatures between 40°C and 200°C with a mass flow of up to 10 m³/h.
The applied control and measurement techniques allow efficiency measurements according to the European test standard for collectors, EN 12975, up to temperatures of 200°C. Dynamic methods are applied for evaluation of the measured data. These routines are also used on other test platforms run by DLR. In the last years, solar collector types of different manufacturers for process heat applications, but also thermal power plants, have been characterised on the SOPRAN facility.
The precise regulation of the collector inlet temperature of +/- 0,05 K over long periods of time for large aperture areas is a particular feature that allows the detection of inaccuracies of collector tracking or receiver mountings via observation of outlet temperature steps.
Optical measuring methods of the QUARZ lab are additionally applied, especially for investigation of the accuracy of the mirror mounting.
Finally, the different testing procedures can determine how to optimise the collectors if necessary.
In 2001, the plant was supplemented by a steam drum and a condenser. This enables, in addition to the operation with pressurized water, also direct steam generation in the collector field. The saturated steam is a commonly used medium for heat transfer in industrial production systems, and tests at the SOPRAN facility have shown how the direct steam generation in the collector can be realised safely. In subsequent projects, direct steam generation was successfully implemented in industrial plants.
Consumers such as thermal engines can be connected to the solar field and fed with solar steam. At the SOPRAN test facility, an absorption chiller has already been operated and tested successfully with saturated steam from the solar field.
At the moment, two collector types are installed: SL4600 manufactured by the company Solarlite with an aperture area of 110 m², as well as collectors by the company Industrial Solar Technology (today Abengoa-IST) with an aperture area of 140 m². Together, they provide a thermal power of 140 kW.