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Wave Energy Conversion Modeling

NREL developed open-source numerical tools that are validated and customizable to meet marine energy community's needs and are used to analyze wave energy conversion (WEC) power performance and predict the extreme loading on the system under critical wave environments.

The research effort also includes the development of the framework for the design load analysis and the application of high-performance computing CFD models, particularly for design-driving extreme wave environments. 

Research Activities

Wave Energy Conversion Performance Simulation

NREL develops, validates, and disseminates the open-source Wave Energy Converter SIMulator (WEC-Sim). The code is developed in MATLAB/SIMULINK using the multi-body dynamics solver Simscape Multibody. WEC-Sim has the ability to model devices composed of rigid bodies, joints, power take-off systems, and mooring systems.

Simulations are performed in the time-domain by solving the governing wave energy converter equations of motion in six degrees of freedom. The model can be used to simulate WEC device dynamics and performance in operational and extreme waves, allowing for improvement of WEC performance during the design process.

The model's applications extend beyond wave energy devices, and it can be joined with other modeling tools to extend its capabilities and usage. Learn how organizations such as NASA are seeing success by utilizing WEC-Sim.

Extreme Condition Modeling

NREL is developing a WEC-specific extreme condition modeling framework, which includes engineering design models, high-performance simulations, and design load case analysis. NREL also produced the WEC Design Response Toolbox, which includes a suite of numerical modules (i.e., environmental characterization, short/long-term extreme response analysis, fatigue analysis, and focused wave generation) that enables WEC design loads to be analyzed early and often in the design cycle and reduces uncertainty about surviving extreme conditions and investment risk.

International Collaborations

NREL supports international collaborations by contributing analysis and administrative support to the International Energy Agency Ocean Energy Systems WEC modeling verification and validation task.

NREL's WEC-Sim team also developed and validated a WEC-Sim model of the Wavestar device for the WEC Control Competition organized by National University of Ireland, Maynooth. The control strategy performance will be assessed in a series of sea states representative of the North Sea environment. NREL participated with the other competition organizers to construct the evaluation criteria that will be used to judge entrants.


The WECCCOMP Wave Energy Competition: Overview, 38th International Conference on Ocean, Offshore, and Arctic Engineering (2019)

Design Load Analysis for Wave Energy Converters, 37th International Conference on Ocean, Offshore, and Arctic Engineering (2018)

Numerical Modeling and Dynamic Analysis of a Wave-Powered Reverse-Osmosis System, Journal of Marine Science and Engineering (2018)

IEA OES Task 10 WEC Modelling Verification and Validation, 12th European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference (2017)

A Survey of WEC Reliability, Survival, and Design Practices, Energies (2017)


Yi-Hsiang Yu

Researcher IV - Mechanical Engineering |