Mathematical and Physical Modelling of a Floating Clam-type Wave Energy Converter
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The original aim of the research project was to investigate the mechanism of power capture from sea waves and to optimise the performance of a vee-shaped floating Wave Energy Converter, the Floating Clam, patented by Francis Farley. His patent was based on the use of a pressurised bag (or ‘reservoir’) to hold the hinged Clam sides apart, so that, as they moved under the action of sea waves, air would be pumped into and out of a further air reservoir via a turbine/generator set, in order to extract power from the system. Such “Clam Action” would result in the lengthening of the resonant period in heave. The flexibility of the air bag supporting the Clam sides was an important design parameter. This was expected to lead to a reduction in the mass (and hence cost) of the Clam as compared with a rigid body. However, the present research has led to the conclusion that the Clam is most effective when constrained in heave and an alternative power take-off is proposed. The theoretical investigations made use of WAMIT, an industry-standard software tool that provides an analysis based on potential flow theory where fluid viscosity is ignored. The WAMIT option of Generalised Modes has been used to model the Clam action. The hydrodynamic coefficients, calculated by WAMIT, have been curve-fitted so that the correct values are available for any chosen wave period. Two bespoke mathematical models have been developed in this work: a frequency domain model, that uses the hydrodynamic coefficients calculated by WAMIT, and a time domain model, linked to the frequency domain model in such a way as to automatically use the same hydrodynamic and hydrostatic data. In addition to modelling regular waves, the time domain model contains an approximate, but most effective method to simulate the behaviour of the Clam in irregular waves, which could be of use in future control system studies. A comprehensive series of wave tank trials has been completed, and vital to their success has been the modification of the wave tank model to achieve very low values of power take-off stiffness through the use of constant force springs, with negligible mechanical friction in the hinge mechanism. Furthermore, the wave tank model has demonstrated its robustness and thus its suitability for use in further test programmes. The thesis concludes with design suggestions for a full-scale device that employs a pulley/counterbalance arrangement to provide a direct connection to turbine/generator sets, giving an efficient drive with low stiffness and inherently very low friction losses. At the current stage of research, the mean annual power capture is estimated as 157.5 kW, wave to wire in a far from energetic 18 kw/m mean annual wave climate, but with scope for improvement, including through control system development.
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