Harnessing the power of ocean waves offers enormous potential as a source of renewable energy. To date the technologies for capturing this resource, collectively known as wave energy converters (WECs), have yet to reach commercial viability and continued research and development efforts are required to move wave energy to the industrial scale. Integral to this process is ensuring that technologies progress along a staged development pathway; proving WEC concepts using small scale physical models in controlled settings such as laboratory wave tanks before eventually advancing to testing sub-prototype and full scale devices in real sea conditions.
The primary objective of this research is to improve the understanding of how best to address the scaling of wave resource measurements and wave energy device power production when analyzing the results of sea-trials. This paper draws on measured data from three test sites; Galway Bay in Ireland, the Pacific Marine Energy Test Centre off the coast of Oregon, and Lake Washington, and assesses how accurately they recreate, at reduced scale, the conditions that commercial WEC installations are likely to encounter at exposed deployment locations. Appropriate techniques for extrapolating these results to predict the performance of commercial WECs at energy-rich locations on the west coasts of Ireland and the US are also demonstrated and discussed.
The output from this research will be a set of protocols for addressing wave energy resource scalability to help guide device developers through this important stage of technology progression. Improved knowledge regarding resource scalability will allow for more streamlined progression of WEC concepts from wave tanks to sea-trials, and eventually to full-scale ocean deployment. It will also result in a reduced uncertainty about device power output and survivability, which are key drivers in determining the economic viability of projects.