In this paper a new technique for parabolic trough mirror alignment based on the use of an innovative Theoretical Overlay Photographic (TOP) approach is described. The technique is a variation on methods used to align mirrors on parabolic dish systems. It involves overlay of theoretical images of the Heat Collection Element (HCE) in the mirrors onto carefully surveyed photographic images and adjustment of mirror alignment until they match. From basic geometric principles, for any given viewer location the theoretical shape and location of the reflected HCE image in the aligned mirrors can be predicted. The TOP approach promises to be practical and straightforward and inherently aligns the mirrors to the HCE. Alignment of an LS-2 mirror module on the rotating platform at the National Solar Thermal Test Facility (NSTTF) with the TOP technique along with how it might be implemented in a large solar field is described. Comparison of the TOP alignment to the distant observer approach on the NSTTF LS-2 is presented and the governing equations used to draw the theoretical overlays are developed. Alignment uncertainty associated with this technique is predicted to be less than the mirror slope error.

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