Wave energy converters (WECs) are a broad class of emerging technology that converts hydrokinetic energy into some other useful form, such as electricity. The last stage in this transformation, the power take-off (PTO) subsystem, is often not experimentally evaluated until half-way through the recommended development process. This delay in evaluation is rooted in history, technology and practicality. It also results in full-scale PTO systems that are not well integrated into the device architectures. In effect, the PTO becomes a design retro-fit.
The development approach supported by public funding agencies follows a stage-gate process that has been proven to reduce risk when the project goals are well defined. However, the early-stage goals do not adequately incorporate the main goal of the project: The development of a commercially-viable device that converts ocean wave energy to electricity.
In addition, the existing development paradigm lacks defined methodologies for evaluating the captured mechanical power. This has led to a situation where there is no consistency across development efforts. The situation can be changed through the adoption of evaluation methodologies, such as the one presented here. The use of the methodology has the additional advantage of focusing the development efforts on the single most important goal of the project – commercially-viable energy conversion.
The methodology presented here has been developed and validated with a unique set of experimental data captured during the WEC-Sim Experimental Validation project. Methodology process steps are explained in detail and rooted in proven development approaches. Application examples for each step are also provided. All the source data will be made publicly available this year by the WEC-Sim project team. Mechanical power results obtained from the use of this methodology can affect device development early in the design cycle, when architectural changes to the device are still easy to make.
Finally, the methodology is designed to be a living process. Developers using it will encounter issues whose resolutions cause methodology changes, to the benefit of the entire wave energy industry.
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