The DTOcean project pioneered a new, open-source collaborative development model for wave and tidal array design tools that considers the entire ocean energy farm throughout its lifecycle. The software helps to find optimal array designs that minimize the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) and identify cost drivers, allowing the industry to capably progress towards economic viability.

DTOcean was an international collaboration between 18 European institutions and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) in the United States. DTOcean was funded under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) which bundles all research-related European Union (EU) initiatives together under a common umbrella.

Software Development

The objective of the DTOcean software is to automate the design of an MHK array (for a given site and technology type). Wave and tidal energy technologies have the potential to contribute significantly to the US and global sustainable energy supply but are still at the development and early demonstration stages. The most promising technologies have been demonstrated to function in the real sea environment, but successful industrialization requires their performance to be proven using arrays as representative elements of a full-scale energy farm. Existing design tools are focused on single or very small numbers of devices and cannot address the extra complexities of medium to large-scale arrays or the interdependent relationship between hydrodynamics, electrical infrastructure, foundation and mooring types, operations and maintenance activities, and array control strategies. Not addressing these factors has significant consequences for the MHK sector, such as a failure to optimize the design of ocean energy arrays to consider economic, environmental, or reliability impacts of scaling up to commercial arrays.

The software integrates a modular set of tools that cover the full spectrum of design tasks, including: hydrodynamic performance, the electrical subsystem, moorings and foundations, and logistics for installation, operations, and maintenance. Economics (e.g., levelized cost of energy or LCOE), reliability, and environmental protection represent major themes and constraints for the design tools. The tool is made easy to use and available to the larger community through the graphical user interface (GUI) and minimum software requirements of a desktop PC with an easy to use setup assistant for installation.

Although the software will be open source and available to all, it is anticipated that the DTOcean software will be used by project developers to aid in the decision-making process among a wide range of alternative design options for wave and tidal energy arrays. The intention is that the DTOcean software will perform a high-level assessment or scoping analysis for potential MHK arrays and sites, which will be followed by more detailed site-specific data collection and analysis by other methods. Further, the tool can be used by the general research community to investigate cost drivers in MHK array design and by industrial supply-chain players (many of which were full participants in the project), thus extending current sectorial trends towards consolidation and growing engagement of major engineering groups, utilities, and OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers). The conscious choice to make the DTOcean design tools open-source will enable a whole new business ecosystem of service companies and specialized technology providers. The availability and accessibility through focused technical outreach activities of such tools, with potential to greatly de-risk the costly step of demonstrator arrays, is thus expected to advance the sector forward in the US and internationally.