Numerical Analysis and Parameter Optimization of Portable Oscillating-Body Wave Energy Converters

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Virginia Tech


As a clean, abundant, and renewable source of energy with a strategic location in close proximity to global population regions, ocean wave energy shows major promise. Although much wave energy converter development has focused on large-scale power generation, there is also increasing interest in small-scale applications for powering the blue economy. In this thesis, the objective was to optimize the performance of small-sized, portable, oscillating-body wave energy converters (WECs). Two types of oscillating body WECs were studied: bottom hinged and two-body attenuator. For the bottom-hinged device, the goal was to show the feasibility of an oscillating surge WEC and desalination system using numerical modeling to estimate the system performance. For a 5-day test period, the model estimated 517 L of freshwater production with 711 ppm concentration and showed effective brine discharge, agreeing well with preliminary experimental results.

The objective for the two-body attenuator was to develop a method of power maximization through resonance tuning and numerical simulation. Three different geometries of body cross sections were used for the study with four different drag coefficients for each geometry. Power generation was maximized by adjusting body dimensions to match the natural frequency with the wave frequency. Based on the time domain simulation results, there was not a significant difference in power between the geometries when variation in drag was not considered, but the elliptical geometry had the highest power when using approximate drag coefficients. Using the two degree-of-freedom (2DOF) model with approximate drag coefficients, the elliptical cross section had a max power of 27.1 W and 7.36% capture width ratio (CWR) for regular waves and a max power of 8.32 W and 2.26% CWR for irregular waves. Using the three degree-of-freedom (3DOF) model with approximate drag coefficients, the elliptical cross section had a max power of 22.5 W and 6.12% CWR for regular waves and 6.18 W and 1.68% CWR for irregular waves. A mooring stiffness study was performed with the 3DOF model, showing that mooring stiffness can be increased to increase relative motion and therefore increase power.



Wave Energy Converter (WEC), Oscillating Surge Wave Energy Converter (OSWEC), Wave Attenuator, Seawater Desalination, Geometry Optimization, Resonance Tuning, Power Maximization