It has been more than a century that tidal energy was tapped to be a source of electric power after first tests were delivered. But since, engineers were not able to exploit its potential to provide electricity in millions of homes – until now.
Engineers at Sandia National Laboratories have realized that it’s finally time to maximize the power we can get from ocean waves. They are now conducting the largest model-scale wave energy testing, to improve drastically the performance of wave-energy converters (WECs).
Project leaders Ryan Coe and Giorgio Bacelli collect data in a dark wave tank – with minimal lighting to reduce the growth of algae in the water – for their numerical modelling and experimental research. Their aim is to discover a technology for the WECs by developing improved methodologies, strategic control systems design and testing practices. Coe said that the WECs’ generators, once developed, can increase the energy absorption by as much as 300%.
Tidal Energy (Source: Sandia National Laboratories)
Coe shared, “”Our goal is to improve the economic viability of these devices. In order to do so, we are working out ways to control the WEC’s generator to increase the amount of power it absorbs.” He added, “At the same time, we are looking at how to reduce the loads and stresses on these devices in harsh conditions to ultimately lengthen a WEC’s lifespan in the water.”
Tidal Energy (Source: Fix)
The engineers are using modelling and control methods in the wave tank which are similar in other industries like aerospace.
Sandia has completed the first round of analyses in the water, but Coe said it will take a while – the machines they are developing are extremely complex, and have to be fine-tuned continuously.