Schatz Energy Research Center

SERC to Conduct Wave Monitoring & Modeling Research for PG&E WaveConnect

Ocean Wave
Ocean Wave (Image credit Wikimedia Commons)

Humboldt County is awash with renewable energy resource potential and wave power is the largest by far. Pacific Gas and Electric recognizes this potential and is developing a pilot scale wave power facility called WaveConnectTM off the coast of the Samoa Peninsula, directly west of HSU. Their objective is to install a “power strip under the sea” providing wave power manufacturers an opportunity to deploy and evaluate their wave energy conversion (WEC) devices.

One technical challenge to this project is wave monitoring and forecasting. Buoys capable of measuring the waves will be deployed at the site, but they are expensive and only provide data at a single point. PG&E would like the capability to measure and forecast the waves over an entire domain (in and around the WaveConnectTM project site), in real time, with high resolution, and at low cost.

PG&E has contracted with SERC to take on this challenge over the next year. Through cutting edge integration of modeled wave conditions with real-time measurements, SERC will develop local expertise and software capabilities to generate detailed characterizations of the ocean environment in and around the WaveConnectTM project site.

The project will be based around modeling the wave regime for the entire Humboldt coast using a modeling framework such as Delft University of Technology’s SWAN model (Simulative WAves Nearshore). The model predictions will then be enhanced through analysis and integration of real-time data from wave buoys, X-band radar systems, and video monitoring systems.

The ultimate goals of this work include:

  • Assessing the overall resource at the WaveConnectTM project site by running the wave model with historical inputs such as buoy data.
  • Assessing the impact of the project on the coastal environment.
  • Enabling PG&E to conduct comprehensive and fair evaluations of the performance of the WEC devices.
  • Providing reliable estimates of current and future wave conditions to assist critical operational and maintenance decisions.

SERC is excited to be involved in the development of a new technology that has the potential to be a major part of a sustainable energy future.

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