With the ocean covering over 70 per cent of Earth’s surface, and holding an estimated 97 per cent of its water, wave energy is one of the largest untapped sources of clean energy. But with the right technology, the ocean can be transformed into the world’s biggest battery. Innovative organisations like CorPower Ocean are doing just that – its patented technologies are enveloped inside of buoys, and they turn wave energy into clean, renewable electricity that can power hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.
Wave energy is a reliable and predictable energy source, making it a key player in the global transition to net zero. Unlike wind and solar energy solutions, which depend on a strong breeze or bright sunlight, wave energy generation systems simply ride the endless waves, day and night. By leveraging wave energy, and transforming it into clean electricity, nations and companies can rest assured that there will always be a source of sustainable power available for use.
The ocean itself, however, can be unpredictable and unforgiving, creating challenges for companies that want to harness its power. Moreover, conducting physical tests in the middle of the ocean isn’t cost-effective, easy, or pragmatic. So, how can engineers design and develop innovative solutions, like wave energy converters, that can withstand the harsh oceanic conditions? The answer is simulation.
Navigating challenging waters
Wave energy converters work by being tethered to the ocean floor, with most of the external buoy sitting beneath the surface. The buoys’ compactness means that they can easily be scaled to create wave energy farms and produce mass quantities of renewable power, without taking up large amounts of surface area or spoiling picturesque coastlines.
The benefits that wave energy converters offer are undeniable, but the development process does not come without its challenges. The ocean’s saline environment is naturally corrosive to man-made objects, and a peaceful stretch of sea can quickly turn into formidable waves that reach tens of metres tall. As a result, buoys could become untethered and carried away, or destroyed altogether – impeding electricity production and ultimately risking power shortages.
Engineers cannot overlook the ocean’s extreme conditions and variations, and any potential scenarios, when testing and refining products. Yet, it’s simultaneously incredibly difficult to haul multiple prototypes out to sea and physically test them – not to mention expensive, time consuming, unsafe, and unsustainable. If organisations want to leverage wave energy, then engineers must ensure that the final product design can withstand a challenging and erratic oceanic environment and perform reliably, no matter the conditions.
Simulation as the solution
With simulation engineering, companies can successfully design, test, and refine wave energy converters, without having to travel to the Atlantic. Simulation allows engineers to create accurate digital representations of real-life objects, enabling them to perform countless tests and refine the end product before it is even physically built.
The design stage is crucial for perfecting the product. Thankfully, simulation allows engineers to mimic any number of potential scenarios that the real-life object may encounter. For example, simulation can virtually replicate storms of different strengths, or tidal waves crashing over the product, providing engineers with a 360-degree view into how the product reacts and helping them pinpoint and improve any structural weaknesses within minutes. Engineers can also compare different designs to see how each performs across the varying scenarios and evaluate for fatigue performance, before using the results to optimise the final design.
Because simulation offers clear and precise visibility into a product’s performance, companies don’t need to invest time and money into the physical building and testing of prototypes. As a result, the entire product development process is accelerated as the time to market is simultaneously reduced; moreover, the overall process is more cost-effective, whilst still ensuring that the design is optimised. Creating the energy generation systems of the future, and ensuring they endure a multitude of scenarios, is not an easy task. But, by leveraging simulation, the process of converting wave energy into renewable electricity is streamlined.
The future of wave energy
The ocean has always been an immense source of natural power, and tapping into its wave energy will allow companies to transform the planet into one powered by renewable electricity. By incorporating simulation into the overall development process, the world is one step closer to turning this vision into reality.
Scott Parent, VP & Field CTO, Aerospace, Energy & Industrial, Ansys