Group photo of NCROEP attendees

Co-designing the future of wave energy: Sandia researcher presents at NCROEP

May 22, 2024 11:54 am Published by

Wave energy convertors (WECs) convert the motion of waves into electrical energy; however, designing devices to survive harsh marine environments and produce commercial-scale electricity at cost-effective rates has its challenges. Ryan Coe, a wave energy and fluid dynamics modeling specialist for Sandia National Laboratories’ Water Power Technologies program, addressed some of these challenges and made a case for WECs’ potential to support autonomous power needs (e.g., ocean sensing, aquaculture, etc.) in his key note address at the North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Program’s (NCROEP) 13th annual research symposium.

Lyndsay Dubbs, Ryan Coe and George Bonner (left to right) at the NCROEP 13th annual research symposium.

Held at the Coastal Studies Institute located on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the two-day event featured research presentations, a student poster contest and workshops along with Coe’s speech. Funded by the state of North Carolina, the NCROEP is a multi-institutional consortium that aims to advance interdisciplinary research and collaboration to bring new ocean energy technologies to the energy market. The symposium features NCROEP-funded research and engagement projects. The event also highlights new advancements in the field of renewable marine energy. The NCROEP is led by the Coastal Studies Institute in partnership with the colleges of engineering at NC State University, UNC Charlotte and NC A&T University.  

Coe was asked to share his work on wave energy co-design, a concept that considers how different WEC components interact with each other and can be optimized to regulate and increase energy production. Coe and his team recently conducted a proof-of-concept test campaign using a scale-model WEC dubbed the WaveBot. Symposium attendees asked questions about how co-design can be applied to their specific areas of research. According to Coe, “there’s a lot of interest in WEC co-design right now. People have been struggling to design these devices in a systematic way, but some of the methods we’ve developed recently can really provide a much clearer and more methodical path.”

While challenges remain to effectively harness wave energy, the NCROEP symposium showcased the ongoing efforts — including those by Sandia’s Coe and his research team — to develop this promising renewable energy source. Incorporated into the grid, WECs can contribute sustainable energy to power homes and communities. Symposiums like NCROEP connect water power researchers across institutions, advancing research in the field and building its workforce.  

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