The hydrodynamics of small seabed mounted bottom hinged wave energy converters in shallow water: PhD thesis

Alan Henry

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This thesis investigates the hydrodynamics of a small, seabed mounted, bottom hinged, wave energy converter in shallow water. The Oscillating Wave Surge Converter is a pitching flap-type device which is located in 10-15m of water to take advantage of the amplification of horizontal water particle motion in shallow water. A conceptual model of the hydrodynamics of the device has been formulated and shows that, as the motion of the flap is highly constrained, the magnitude of the force applied to the flap by the wave is strongly linked to the power absorption.

An extensive set of experiments has been carried out in the wave tank at Queen’s University at both 40th and 20th scales. The experiments have included testing in realistic sea states to estimate device performance as well as fundamental tests using small amplitude monochromatic waves to determine the force applied to the flap by the waves. The results from the physical modelling programme have been used in conjunction with numerical data from WAMIT to validate the conceptual model.

The work finds that tuning the OWSC to the incident wave periods is problematic and only results in a marginal increase in power capture. It is also found that the addition of larger diameter rounds to the edges of the flap reduces viscous losses and has a greater effect on the performance of the device than tuning. As wave force is the primary driver of device performance it is shown that the flap should fill the water column and should pierce the water surface to reduce losses due to wave overtopping.

With the water depth fixed at approximately 10m it is shown that the width of the flap has the greatest impact on the magnitude of wave force, and thus device performance. An 18m wide flap is shown to have twice the absorption efficiency of a 6m wide flap and captures 6 times the power. However, the increase in power capture with device width is not limitless and a 24m wide flap is found to be affected by two-dimensional hydrodynamics which reduces its performance per unit width, especially in sea states with short periods. It is also shown that as the width increases the performance gains associated with the addition of the end effectors reduces. Furthermore, it is shown that as the flap width increases the natural pitching period of the flap increases, thus detuning the flap further from the wave periods of interest for wave energy conversion.

The effect of waves approaching the flap from an oblique angle is also investigated and the power capture is found to decrease with the cosine squared of the encounter angle. The characteristic of the damping applied by the power take off system is found to have a significant effect on the power capture of the device, with constant damping producing between 20% and 30% less power than quadratic damping. Furthermore, it is found that applying a higher level of damping, or a damping bias, to the flap as it pitches towards the beach increases the power capture by 10%.

A further set of experiments has been undertaken in a case study used to predict the power capture of a prototype of the OWSC concept. The device, called the Oyster Demonstrator, has been developed by Aquamarine Power Ltd. and is to be installed at the European Marine Energy Centre, Scotland, in 2009.

The work concludes that OWSC is a viable wave energy converter and absorption efficiencies of up 75% have been measured. It is found that to maximise power absorption the flap should be approximately 20m wide with large diameter rounded edges, having its pivot close to the seabed and its top edge piercing the water surface.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherQueen's University Belfast
Number of pages245
Publication statusUnpublished - 2009


  • wave energy
  • oscillating wave surge converter
  • Oyster
  • Wave force
  • wave tank
  • wave energy conversion
  • hydrodynamics
  • flap
  • plate


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