This study explores and verifies the generalized body-modes method for evaluating the structural loads on a wave energy converter (WEC). Historically, WEC design methodologies have focused primarily on accurately evaluating hydrodynamic loads, while methodologies for evaluating structural loads have yet to be fully considered and incorporated into the WEC design process. As wave energy technologies continue to advance, however, it has become increasingly evident that an accurate evaluation of the structural loads will enable an optimized structural design, as well as the potential utilization of composites and flexible materials, and hence reduce WEC costs. Although there are many computational fluid dynamics, structural analyses and fluid-structure-interaction (FSI) codes available, the application of these codes is typically too computationally intensive to be practical in the early stages of the WEC design process. The generalized body-modes method, however, is a reduced order, linearized, frequency-domain FSI approach, performed in conjunction with the linear hydrodynamic analysis, with computation times that could realistically be incorporated into the WEC design process.
The objective of this study is to verify the generalized body-modes approach in comparison to high-fidelity FSI simulations to accurately predict structural deflections and stress loads in a WEC. Two verification cases are considered, a free-floating barge and a fixed-bottom column. Details for both the generalized body-modes models and FSI models are first provided. Results for each of the models are then compared and discussed. Finally, based on the verification results obtained, future plans for incorporating the generalized body-modes method into the WEC simulation tool, WEC-Sim, and the overall WEC design process are considered.