Photo: Illustration/Different types of wave energy converter devices (Screenshot/Small WEC Analysis tool)

NREL puts out free analysis tool for small wave energy converters

Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have released the Small WEC Analysis tool, whose goal is to provide baseline information about the performance of different types of wave energy converters in various ocean settings free of charge.

Illustration/Different types of wave energy converter devices (Screenshot/Small WEC Analysis tool)
Illustration/Different types of wave energy converter devices (Screenshot/Small WEC Analysis tool)

Developed as part of the collaboration between US Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office and NREL, the Small WEC Analysis tool has recently been released as an online, publicly available graphical user interface that offers key baseline data on wave energy converters (WECs).

The tool allows users to explore and compare small WEC performance by visualizing WEC data. Users can select different wave energy devices and choose a specific scale to visualize data, and they also have the option to compare different devices, enter specific energy goals, and explore WECs that meet their criteria.

“There are many different types of WECs. But these concepts represent the most popular mechanisms that inventors ideate when designing their own,” said Jim McNally, a technology innovation, modeling, and assessment engineer at NREL, who led the development of the tool.

The tool is also said to be helpful for researchers and funders looking for a baseline measurement that indicates the amount of energy a particular WEC is expected to produce. That information helps those decision-makers evaluate whether the innovation is worthy of funding or lab testing space, according to NREL.

“With WECs, there are a number of ways to estimate the amount of power they’ll produce, but oftentimes, these estimates aren’t entirely accurate,” McNally said. “The decision-makers needed an interface where they could quickly look up an estimate and be able to see if a proposal is in the ballpark.”

Having this information in a publicly available interface, along with historical data, is vital for anyone in the wave energy sector, which includes startups, universities, and researchers, NREL said.

Also, the energy estimates found within the tool can either help accelerate an inventor’s design cycle or prevent them from wasting time on a faulty concept from the start. This information just helps close the design loop, according to McNally.

Because of the harsh marine environments WECs must operate in, and the complex regulatory requirements imposed on device deployments, advancements in wave energy technology have been slow.

Although they may not be huge, small-scale WECs could help meet the needs of small communities and projects, and the data found in the Small WEC Analysis Tool will help identify the best WECs for the job, according to NREL.

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