Along with solar power and wind power, wave energy could be a serious gamechanger in the clean energy landscape, especially when considering that a large portion of the US population lives within 50 miles of the coastline, and could take advantage of this renewable energy. However, while both solar panel and wind turbine technologies have essentially matured, and getting access to reliable and efficient sun and wind power is becoming simpler (and cheaper) every day, marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) power devices are still lagging far behind.
Wave power, or MHK, has huge potential, yet there are only small-scale pilot programs currently ‘in the water,’ and no commercial scale wave energy technology has been deployed, even though there are a number of promising concepts that seem to always be ‘under development.’ Two of the reasons for this are the high cost of R&D, which hasn’t received the same attention or funding that solar and wind power have over the last couple of decades, and the extremely challenging environment of the ocean, which can make it very expensive to deploy devices for testing and operations.
“It takes a lot of money to build something, deploy it in the water and test it. It would be a lot easier to have computational tools, where you can study a whole range of inputs and say, ‘What if I made the device twice as big? What if the wavelength of the waves was a little bit different? What if I pushed it out into the ocean a little bit deeper?'” – Noël Bakhtian, DOE Wind and Water Power Technologies Office
One thing that could help ramp up wave power as a viable energy source is the development of better, and more affordable, modeling software, which can be used to improve and optimize marine and hydrokinetic devices, before they get built and deployed for testing. To that end, NASA, the US Department of Energy (DOE), the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) and Sandia National Labs, are working on an open source modeling tool called WEC-Sim (Wave Energy Converter Simulator), and they’re looking to crowdsource some of the coding for their initiative.
The Open-WARP Challenge seeks to “leverage the coding expertise of the worldwide development community” to improve the code, thereby speeding the development of wave energy conversion (WEC) devices for the MHK industry. Get the full scoop on the Challenge over at Topcoder: OpenWARP – Predicting Hydrodynamic Forces for Renewable Ocean Energy