Kate Freeman


An oscillating water column (OWC) wave energy converter (WEC) is a device designed to extract energy from waves at sea by using the water to move trapped air and thus drive an air turbine. Because the incident waves and the force caused by the power take-off (PTO) interact, control of the power take off (PTO) system can increase the total energy converted. A numerical model was developed to study the interaction of an OWC with the water and other structures around it. ANSYS AQWA is used here to find the effects on the water surface in and around the central column of a five-column, breakwater-mounted OWC. For open OWC structures, coupled modes were seen which lead to sensitivity to incident wave period and direction. The frequency-domain displacements of the internal water surface of the central column were turned into a force-displacement, time-domain model in MATLAB Simulink using a state space approximation. The model of the hydrodynamics was then combined with the thermodynamic and turbine equations for a Wells turbine. A baseline situation was tested for fixed turbine speed operation using a wave climate for a region off the north coast of Devon. A linear feedforward controller and a controller based on maximising turbine efficiency were tested for the system. The linear controller was optimised to find the combination of turbine speed offset and proportional constant that gave maximum energy in the most energy abundant sea state. This increased the converted energy by 31% in comparison to the fixed speed case. For the turbine efficiency control method, the increase was 36%. Energy conversion increases are therefore clearly possible using simple controllers. If increased converted energy is the only criterion for controller choice, then the turbine efficiency control is the best method, however the control action involves using very slow turbine speeds which may not be physically desirable.

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