Planning an open-water test facility for utility-scale wave-energy converters (WECs) within the US requires a multifaceted approach. Concerns regarding

  • the siting and permitting, the environmental interactions,
  • the device performance, and
  • the cost of the facility must all be simultaneously addressed.

The DOE has started to investigate a utility-scale WEC testing facility with the recent awards to Oregon State University (OSU) and California State University–San Luis Obispo to evaluate launching a facility off of either the Oregon or California coast.

Artist’s conception of a submerged power pod. (Illustration courtesy of Ocean Power Technologies,

Artist’s conception of a submerged power pod. (Illustration courtesy of Ocean Power Technologies,

These test sites are intended to be WEC-type agnostic, meaning that they should be suitable for deployment of a variety of device embodiments. Additionally, these sites are intended to have multiple berths open to developers, thus allowing multiple devices to be tested simultaneously. The method for transmitting power from multiple devices back to shore normally involves a central power pod that conditions the power before transmitting it to shore.

As part of this effort, Sandia will work with OSU to look at the requirements for a facility-provided power pod. This work will evaluate the power characteristics of multiple device embodiments. The set of power characteristics will be used to model the power pod’s internal power electronics, thus assisting the project team in determining the applicability of a single set of pod electronics. Additional modeling to determine a floating pod’s dynamics will be used to assist the project team in evaluating power pod placement within the water column.

Modeling of power characteristics through the power pod electronics allows deeper insight not only for the utility-scale test facilities, but is also an important step for understanding the requirements for large array deployments. These modeling efforts are anticipatory of the upcoming needs of the marine hydrokinetic industry and are expected to help frame the same conversation industry will conduct as it deploys its arrays.