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Make Waves with an Open Source Tidal Power Simulator


wave-376536_1280This is probably news for geeks, but have you ever considered developing your own wave power generator? If what is holding you back is your distance the ocean or the price tag of the systems then worry no more, the DOE through SANDIA and NREL released an open source wave power simulator.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Sandia National Laboratories (SANDIA) are working hand in hand on WEC-Sim, a sophisticated open-source modeling tool. What’s more is that the U.S. Department of Energy is tapping the coding community to help in developing it.

Version 1.0 of Wave Energy Converter Simulator (WEC-Sim) has been released by NREL and SANDIA a year after the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) gave them the go signal to develop a simulation tool for the tidal energy industry. WEC-Sim helps engineers analyse and optimise wave-energy converters (WECs). Kelley Ruehl, one of the Principal WEC-Sim Developers at SANDIA says that “the WEC industry relies heavily on numerical modeling tools during the device design and optimisation process. The existing WEC modeling tools are closed-source and cannot be customised to meet device specific modeling needs. WEC-Sim provides the WEC community with an open-source tool that will allow the industry to develop new and innovative WEC devices.” It can simulate the performance of wave energy devices that are made up of “rigid bodies, power-take-off systems, and mooring systems.”

WEC-Sim was created using a combination of MATLAB (Matrix Laboratory) and SimMechanics, a “multi-body dynamics solver”. At the heart of the tool is the Cummins impulse response formulation — the most popular tool used in modeling ships at sea, as well as WECs.

The team collaborated with several U.S. industry members to ensure that the tool is usable and relevant to its target users – wave power equipment developers. “In order to ensure WEC-Sim is meeting the needs of industry, the team has reached out to several US industry members to determine features for future development of the WEC-Sim code. Based on this feedback, and the WEC-Sim Questionnaire, the WEC-Sim team has focused its code development,” Ruehl says.

Its key advantage is the fact that the code is open source. Because of this, users have the freedom to “modify the code to meet their specific modeling needs.” Because there are so many different designs of wave energy devices, it is “difficult to create a code capable of modeling them all,” she adds.

In order to further the development of WEC-Sim, the DOE has launched a coding competition called the Wave Energy Conversion (WEC) Prize Competition. Of particular interest is the boundary element method (BEM) module that “provides hydrodynamic coefficients that are needed for time-domain WEC-Sim simulations,” according to Alison Labonte, Marine and Hydrokinetic Technology Manager at the DOE.

“The wave energy research community is relatively small and does not have expertise in all areas of coding an algorithm development. Using code competitions allows the ocean energy community to tap into the coding expertise of the online coding community to leverage expertise in specific areas of knowledge,” adds Labonte.

So, if you feel like making waves, start coding away!

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