Dynamic modeling of solar thermal plant: from physical model and prediction to optimization and control - QC-093

Preferred Disciplines: PhD or PostDoc, Mechanical engineering, Electrical engineering
Company: N/A
Project Length:  8 months
Desired start date: ASAP
Location: Sherbrooke, QC
No. of Positions: 1
Preferences: N/A

About the Company: 

The project is from a Canadian (province of Quebec) company active in the field of renewable energy and solar industrial heat and processes. The company develops and manufactures systems sold around the world.

Project Description:

In solar thermal plant control, the discontinuous nature of the sun irradiance is seen more as a perturbation than as a control parameter. It forces to study the dynamic behavior of the plant to characterize its operation and to improve its performance and maintenance.

The aim of this project is to define a reasonably simplified modeling approach to highlight the main issues that characterize the process dynamics of these energy systems and their related energy storages.


  • develop first-principles mathematical models of key unit operations. Verify their availability in commercial or open source platforms. Validate their steady-state operation with existing data and the level of calibration needed.
  • develop dynamic models based on conservation laws of energy and mass suitable for analyzing energy consumption during transient scenarios.
  • formulate a first approach to maximize overall energy production including storage power and process heat. Include startup and shutdown transient to allow for multiple- day simulations.
  • develop modular, flexible structure with a well-defined interface to easily replace and test modules of various detail and complexity (power block, reverse osmosis, distillation, etc).
  • migrate the simulation strategies toward control strategies to help the plant to operate in the most autonomous way despite of large disturbance.
  • explore advanced concept of control like predictive behavior and fuzzy logic or multi-input-multi-output that can be implemented on existing structure to improve performance, reliability, and extend the life of the plant.
  • Document the modeling strategies in a way that is useful to other company departments (business development, control, service, etc).


Research Objectives:

  • explore the performance of solar thermal plants on multiple time scales: reactive level (regulation to operating set points), tactical level (adaptation of set points), and strategic level (trading off objectives like production vs fatigue, nominal set point vs annual production, etc)
  • make solar thermal plants more competitive with conventional power plants by providing tools to respond with agility to market dynamics and changes.
  • optimize computational performance (ex.: computation time of a simulation should allow simulation of several full day scenarios during a working day).


  • Literature review, summary and state of the art identification
  • Model survey and model definition
  • Simulation platform selection
  • Model experimentation and validation
  • Identification of best operating points and related control strategies
  • Documentation and toolset elaboration

Expertise and Skills Needed:

  • Thermodynamics  / Thermo-hydraulic
  • Mathematics
  • Computer model and simulation (useful: matlab simulink, modelica, trnsys, etc)
  • Process and Instrumentation diagram (P&ID)
  • Data analysis
  • Troubleshooting
  • Team work
  • Communications skills

For more info or to apply to this applied research position, please

  1. Check your eligibility and find more information about open projects.
  2. Complete this webform. You will be asked to upload your CV. Remember to indicate the title of the project(s) you are interested in and obtain your professor’s approval to proceed!
  3. Interested students need to get the approval from their supervisor and send their CV along with a link to their supervisor’s university webpage by applying through the webform or directly to Simon Bousquet, sbousquet@mitacs.ca