Project spotlight: WEC-Sim software simulates wave energy converters to improve WEC design and overall performance

April 26, 2023 9:25 am Published by

To help meet the United States goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories’ Water Power Program are studying innovative ways to produce clean energy from the oceans. Ocean wave energy technologies gather energy from waves using wave energy converters, or WECs, to harness wave motion and generate electricity.

Ocean wave energy technologies are still in the early stages and several challenges — such as weather conditions, testing at sea, permits, and transmission — make gathering data complex.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technology Office funded Sandia National Laboratories to work on the Wave Energy Converter SIMulator (WEC-Sim) project. Sandia researchers partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to jointly develop WEC-Sim, an open-source software for simulating wave energy converters.  

“The goal of my research is to support the advancement of renewable energy technologies for a sustainable future. It’s exciting to see the impact WEC-Sim has made on the marine energy community, domestically and worldwide. I am always learning about new applications of WEC-Sim,” said Kelley Ruehl, Principal Investigator (PI) on the project.  

The WEC-Sim team consists of Sandia’s Dominic Forbush, Jorge Leon, Adam Keester, and Jeff Grasberger. The NREL team members include Nathan Tom (Co-PI), Sal Hussain, and David Ogden. 

WEC-Sim allows academic, industry, and other researchers to understand how a WEC will function in the open sea under any number of simulated conditions and identify ways to improve its design and overall performance. The WEC-Sim team developed the WEC-Sim Applications repository, which contains examples of the wide variety of scenarios that can be modeled with WEC-Sim, including desalination, mooring dynamics, nonlinear hydrodynamic bodies, free decay, batch simulations, and many others.  

“WEC-Sim has been a quintessential software development project in the marine energy space. It is very exciting to be a part of this team and continue exploring new areas with the software. I’ve learned a lot about numerical modeling and the marine energy industry by working with TEAMER awardees to apply WEC-Sim in novel ways,” said Adam Keester. 

WEC-Sim is developed in MATLAB/SIMULINK using the multi-body dynamics solver Simscape Multibody and can model devices comprised of bodies, joints, power take-off systems, and mooring systems. Simulations are performed in the time-domain by solving the governing equations of motion in 6-degrees-of-freedom.   

“As a newer member to the WEC-Sim team, it is incredible to see the impact WEC-Sim has already had on the marine energy industry. The team’s coordination and dedication to the project is clear through a variety of outstanding results, and I am proud to be a part of future applications of WEC-Sim,” said Jeffrey Grasberger. 

To date, the software has helped developers worldwide refine their WEC concepts, been a catalyst for new partnerships between Sandia and industry and assisted companies seeking technical expertise through the TEAMER website. In 2021, WEC-Sim won an R&D 100 Award.  

“The continuous interaction between WEC-Sim developers and users around the world through the issues board in GitHub has been crucial to the software success. This interaction has been the key for many of the new features that have been added over the last years. The software is in continuous development, thanks to the extensive user base that works on a wide variety of marine energy applications,” said Jorge Leon. 

WEC-Sim is publicly available on GitHub.  Read the WEC-Sim Case Study to learn more.  

Learn more about Sandia National Laboratories’ Water Power Program.  

Top Featured Image: The WEC-Sim Team. Standing left to right: Adam Keester, Sandia National Laboratories; Jeffrey Grasberger, Sandia National Laboratories; Salman Husain, NREL; David Ogden, Velocity Global; Nathan Tom, NREL; and Jorge Leon, Sandia National Laboratories. Sitting left to right: Dominic Forbush, Sandia National Laboratories; and Kelley Ruehl, Sandia National Laboratories. Photo by Taylor Mankle, NREL. 

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