The idea of acausality for control of a wave energy converter (WEC) is a concept that has been popular since the birth of modern wave energy research in the 1970s. This concept has led to considerable research into wave prediction and feedforward WEC control algorithms. However, the findings in this report mostly negate the need for wave prediction to improve WEC energy absorption, and favor instead feedback driven control strategies. Feedback control is shown to provide performance that rivals a prediction-based controller, which has been unrealistically assumed to have perfect prediction.
It is well known in classical control engineering that perfect knowledge of past and future events will always lead to higher performing systems. However, it is also well known that the underlying system must be well-designed; control cannot fix a bad design. Additionally, one must consider the practical application of a control design, which relies on measurements and actuation systems. There are major implications to cost and reliability when relying on remote sensors requiring real-time data-streaming (e.g., remote wave buoys). This report shows that for a well-designed WEC, in which closed loop dynamics is considered since early stages of design, a suboptimal controller using no prediction can achieve more than 90% of the theoretical maximum.
As shown in Figure 1, a predictionless feedback resonating (FBR) controller performs within 0.1% percent of a controller with perfect future knowledge (something which is not practically attainable). Given the major challenges with accurate and robust wave prediction, this result provides a major argument and incentive for utilizing feedback for WEC control. Implementation of these feedback strategies is readily attainable, while the strategy requiring perfect wave prediction will demand an unknown number of additional years to research and develop, all in the service of a marginal 1% benefit.