Thermodynamic processes involved in wave energy extraction

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Wave energy is one of the most promising renewable energy sources for future exploitation. This thesis focuses on thermodynamic effects within Oscillating Water Column (OWC) devices equipped withWells turbines, particularly humidity effects. Previous theoretical studies of the operation of OWCs have resulted in expressions for the oscillation of the water surface in the chamber of an OWC based on linear wave theory, and the air expansion{compression cycle inside the air chamber based on ideal gas theory. Although in practice high humidity levels occur in OWC devices open to the sea, the influence of atmospheric conditions such as temperature and moisture on the performance of Wells turbines has not yet been studied in the field of ocean energy. Researchers have reported substantial differences between predicted and measured power output, and performance rates of OWCs presently coming into operation. The effect of moisture in the air chamber of the OWC causes variations on the atmospheric conditions near the turbine, modifying its performance and efficiency. Discrepancies in available power to the turbine are believed to be due to the humid air conditions, which had not been modelled previously. This thesis presents a study of the influence of humid air on the performance of an idealised Wells turbine in the chamber of an OWC using a real gas model. A new formulation is presented, including a modified adiabatic index, and subsequent modified thermodynamic state variables such as enthalpy, entropy and specific heat. The formulation is validated against experimental data, and found to exhibit better agreement than the ideal approach. The analysis indicates that the real gas behaviour can be explained by a non{dimensional number which depends on the local pressure and temperature in the OWC chamber. A first approach to the OWC formulation through the calculation of real air flow in the OWC is given, which predicts a 6% decrease in efficiency with respect to the ideal case when it is tested with a hypothetical pulse of pressure. This is important because accurate prediction of efficiency is essential for the optimal design and management of OWC converters. A numerical model has also been developed using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to simulate the OWC characteristics in open sea. The performance of an OWC turbine is studied through the implementation of an actuator disk model in Fluent®. A set of different regular wave tests is developed in a 2D numerical wave flume. The model is tested using information obtained from experimental tests on a Wells{type turbine located in a wind tunnel. Linear response is achieved in terms of pressure drop and air flow in all cases, proving effectively the applicability of the actuator disk model to OWC devices. The numerical model is applied first to an OWC chamber containing dry air, and then to an OWC chamber containing humid air. Results from both cases are compared, and it is found that the results are sensitive to the degree of humidity of the air. Power decreases when humidity increases. Finally, results from the analytical real gas and numerical ideal gas models are compared. Very satisfactory agreement is obtained between the analytical and the numerical models when humidity is inserted in the gaseous phase. Both analytical and numerical models with humid air show considerable differences with the numerical model when dry air is considered. However, at the resonance frequency, results are independent of the gas model used. At every other frequency analysed, the real gas model predicts reduced values of power that can fall to 50% of the ideal power value when coupled to the radiation-diffraction model for regular waves. It is recommended that real gas should be considered in future analyses of Wells turbines in order to calculate accurately the efficiency and expected power of OWC devices.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusSubmitted - 1 Sep 2017


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