Air Force ups wave power efficiency to 99 percent

Air Force researchers say they’ve managed to harness more than 99 percent of wave energy.

The research is part of a National Science Foundation-funded project to create the world’s first free-floating, fully submerged wave-energy converter generating power from deep-ocean waves.

The Air Force Academy’s department of aeronautics has been working on the system since the fall of 2008. The latest experiments confirm the simulations that triggered the project.

“Nobody believes simulations, other than the guy who did it. So we set up a very small, about 1:300 scale version of the deep-ocean wave in the lab. We built a wave tank and we built a scale model of our wave energy converter that we will use in the open ocean,” says Dr Stefan Siegel, who is leading the Academy’s wave energy research effort.

“What came out of those initial experiments is that we were able to get 95 percent of the wave’s energy, That is, in a sense, confirming and replicating the results that we got out of the simulations.”

That remaining five percent was lost to harmonic waves, but improved feedback flow control increased the efficiency to 99 percent in subsequent tests.

“There’s pretty good reason to believe that when we scale up the experiment, it will behave in a similar fashion,” Siegel says.

The Department of Energy has provided another $400,000 of funding for the next stage of the research – two testing campaigns with 1:10-scale models at the Offshore Technology Research Center at Texas A&M University.

The center has one of the world’s largest wave tank facilities, allowing the testing of a larger wave energy converter and eventually of three wave energy converters simultaneously.