Wave energy converter effects on wave propagation: A sensitivity study in Monterey Bay, CA
Abstract:The development of renewable offshore energy in the United States is growing rapidly and wave energy is one of the largest resources currently being evaluated. The deployment of wave energy converter (WEC) arrays required to harness this resource could feasibly number in the hundreds of individual devices. The WEC arrays have the potential to alter nearshore wave propagation and circulation patterns and ecosystem processes. As the industry progresses from pilot- to commercial-scale it is important to understand and quantify the effects of WECs on the natural nearshore processes that support a local, healthy ecosystem. To help accelerate the realization of commercial-scale wave power, predictive modeling tools have been developed and utilized to evaluate the likelihood of environmental impact.
At present, direct measurements of the effects of different types of WEC arrays on nearshore wave propagation are not available; therefore wave model simulations provide the groundwork for investigations of the sensitivity of model results to prescribed WEC characteristics over a range of anticipated wave conditions. The present study incorporates a modified version of an industry standard wave modeling tool, SWAN (Simulating WAves Nearshore), to simulate wave propagation through a hypothetical WEC array deployment site on the California coast. The modified SWAN, referred to as SNL-SWAN, incorporates device-specific WEC power take-off characteristics to more accurately evaluate a WEC device’s effects on wave propagation.
The primary objectives were to investigate the effects of a range of WEC devices and device and array characteristics (e.g., device spacing, number of WECs in an array) on nearshore wave propagation using SNL-SWAN model simulations. Results showed that significant wave height was most sensitive to variations in WEC device type and size and the number of WEC devices in an array. Locations in the lee centerline of the arrays in each modeled scenario showed the largest potential changes in wave height. The SNL-SWAN model simulations for various WEC devices provide the basis for a solid model understanding, giving the confidence necessary for future WEC evaluations.