Load Transfer Unit Design for High-Impact Wave Energy Converter
Coastal communities and sailors have long known what a powerful punch ocean waves can pack. Tapping into that energy to generate electricity is an exciting prospect for clean power generation, especially since major population centers – and therefore major electricity users – are concentrated on our coasts.
Waves vary significantly in how much power they generate in a given location over time. In engineering terms, this means that wave energy converters are subjected to highly dynamic loads over their operating lifetime, which can create wear and tear for such systems. Oscilla Power believes that its converter system is scaleable and could eventually be part of a rapidly growing wave energy industry driven by the commercialization of low-cost, utility-scale wave energy converters.
The company's converter is comprised of a surface float connected by flexible tethers to a submerged heave plate. As surface waves excite the float it reacts against this heave plate, generating tension changes in the tethers, and capturing mechanical energy from the waves. Through this program, the company will leverage the expertise at Sandia National Laboratories, where it will also work with industry leaders to determine the loads that the system will experience in extreme seas, define structural loadings in large waves, and provide additional numerical model validation. That research can improve product design and help provide a baseline for scaling up to the utility level.
PROJECT INNOVATION + ADVANTAGES
All wave energy converter designs reflect a tradeoff between cost and survivability. Oscilla Power seeks to explore extreme loads and develop survival configurations for its TritonTM wave energy converter. The company's approach differs from other developers because it focuses on cost reduction through innovation rather than learning curves; staged development of drivetrain and system technologies, and a capital-efficient, technology-focused business model. The company's design allows the system to capture energy from multiple points in a wave, including its heave, pitch, surge and roll. The system is ultimately able to convert more than 75 percent of this mechanical energy into electricity.
Speeding the development of wave energy converters could have broad applications across the industry, revitalizing the sector as a whole. As it stands, there are just a handful of relatively small scale wave power systems operating globally. Improving the technology could open up a new field of clean power development.
One study estimates global wave power potential at around two terawatts, more than four percent of which can be extracted with given wave energy converters. Wave energy is renewable – it's ultimately generated by winds that pass over the ocean – and offshore wave energy systems could provide a reliable source of clean energy on our coasts.
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