An Open Source Low-Cost Wireless Control System for a Forced Circulation Solar Plant
The article describes the design phase, development and practical application of a low-cost control system for a forced circulation solar plant in an outdoor test cell located near Milan. Such a system provides for the use of an electric pump for the circulation of heat transfer fluid connecting the solar thermal panel to the storage tank. The running plant temperatures are the fundamental parameter to evaluate the system performance such as proper operation, and the control and management system has to consider these parameters. A solar energy-powered wireless-based smart object was developed, able to monitor the running temperatures of a solar thermal system and aimed at moving beyond standard monitoring approaches to achieve a low-cost and customizable device, even in terms of installation in different environmental conditions. To this end, two types of communications were used: the first is a low-cost communication based on the ZigBee protocol used for control purposes, so that it can be customized according to specific needs, while the second is based on a Bluetooth protocol used for data display.