Assessment of a nearshore modular flap-type wave energy converter
Wilkinson, Laurie Fletcher
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This thesis presents an assessment of a modular flap-type wave energy converter. Comparisons are made to an equivalent width rigid device. All quoted relative difference results here use the rigid device as the reference point. The variables that are evaluated are the power capture and surge and yaw foundation loads. The power capture is evaluated at both module and device level, while the foundation loads are assessed just at the device level. The investigation is carried out through testing of a 30th scale physical model in a wave tank. A key output from the work is the development of the physical model. The model consists of six flap modules, mounted on a common base structure. Each module contains a highly controllable and compact power take off system. The devices are tested in a range of conditions, primarily consisting of regular waves of different period and direction. The damping strategy employed is the simplest approach available, setting the achievable damping level on each module to be the same. For the modular device in head-on regular waves, the results show that the power capture increases significantly moving from the outer to the central modules. On average, the central pair of modules produce 68 % of the total mean power, the inner modules 25 % and the outer modules only 7 %. Between the devices, it is shown that the power captures in head-on waves are similar, with a mean relative difference of -3 %, with +/-5 % uncertainty. Thus, no statistically significant change in power capture is shown. In off-angle waves, the mean relative difference is –1 %, with +/-4 % uncertainty. However, for the highest wave direction that was tested in, 27.5 degrees, the modular device outperforms the rigid flap, by 10 %, with uncertainty of +/-1 %. The surge foundation loads are shown to be very similar for the two devices - in head-on waves, the mean relative difference is +2 %. Depending on the level of applied damping, however, significant differences in the yaw foundation loads are shown. Using damping where the power capture is maximised, the yaw loads increase by a mean of 10 %; using damping where the power to load ratio is instead maximised, the modular yaw loads are 26 % lower. Finally, the economics of the power production is estimated through division of the power capture with a cost metric, the foundation loads. While this does not provide a full techno-economic assessment, it effectively captures the interdependency of the power capture and foundation loads for the devices. The mean relative differences in the power per load ratios of the devices are found to be similar across the wave conditions. In the head-on waves, the differences are between –8 and –0.4 %, depending on damping strategy; in the off-angle waves, the differences are between –6 and +10 %. For both sets of wave conditions, the modular flap performs better when the damping is set to maximise the ratio of power capture to foundation loads. The work concludes that the modular and rigid devices produce power and experience foundation loads at similar levels in head-on waves. Given the high power capture efficiency, nearshore location, simple mode of operation and high survivability of the flap-type WEC, this suggests that the modular device is a viable stand-alone concept. The work also finds that in off-angle waves, some benefits can be achieved with an appropriately damped modular system, notably in improved power capture and reduced yaw foundation loads. These could reduce the sensitivity that flap-type devices have in off-angle waves and allow expansion of the width and hence capacity of machines. Further work should extend the wave conditions tested in, by using more irregular and directional waves, and investigate more damping strategies and geometries. Economic assessment should also be carried out.