Phase control may substantially increase the power absorption in point-absorber wave energy converters. This study deals with validation of dynamic models and latching control algorithms for an oscillating water column (OWC) inside a fixed vertical tube of small circular cross-section by small-scale testing. The paper describes experimental and numerical results for the system's dynamics, using simple and practical latching control techniques that do not require the prediction of waves or wave forces, and which will be relevant to any type of point-absorbing devices.
In the experimental set-up, the upper end of the tube was equipped with an outlet duct and a shut-off valve, which could be controlled to give a latching of the inner free surface movement. The pressure drop through the open valve is used as a simplified measure of the energy extraction. The control was realized by using the real-time measurement signals for the inner and outer surface displacement.
A mathematical model of the system was established and applied in numerical simulation. In the case the OWC's diameter is much smaller than the wavelength and the wave amplitude much smaller than the draft, the free surface movement inside the tube can be described as an oscillating weightless piston. For this hydrodynamic problem an analytical solution is known. In addition, the mathematical model includes the effects of viscous flow losses, the air compressibility inside the chamber and the pressure drop across the valve. Experimental results were used to calibrate some of the model parameters, and the total model was formulated as a coupled system of six non-linear, first-order differential equations. Time-domain integration was used to simulate the system in order to test the control strategies and compare with experimental results.