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Analysis and performance comparison of an OWC wave power plant equipped with Wells and Impulse turbines

Eugnio V. Corvelo

The paper deals with numerical simulation on time domain of the performance of an OWC wave power plant equipped with two parallel electric turbo-generators sets equipped with Wells or with Impulse turbines. It is also studied the performance of the OWC equipped with Wells turbine and a fast relief valve in parallel. An algorithm to control the turbines rotational speed for maximum power output and energy quality is also presented.

1 Introduction
Oscillating water column (OWC) wave energy power plants are to date those that have known a more extensive development. Full-scale prototypes have been built in some countries. The device is constituted by a hydro-pneumatic chamber, generally similar to a large parallelepiped (or cylinder) shape with the side walls partially submerged in the water. The hydro-pneumatic chamber form inside a free-surface, that oscillates by the action of waves. This rising and falling of the water level promotes an air flow that drives one or more air turbines coupled to electric generators. The air flow is non-steady, with the flow changing direction twice per wave cycle, and the amplitude of the air flow oscillations changing in different time scales. Therefore designing a selfrectifying turbine to respond satisfactorily to these operating conditions is a challenge. In the late seventies, a self-rectifying turbine to equip OWC was invented: The Wells turbine. However, this type of turbine has the disadvantage of presenting severe and abrupt drops in power due to flow separation around the blades, depending on flow velocities and turbine rotation speed. In order to overcome these drawbacks, other types of self-rectifying turbines have been proposed for this

purpose, namely Impulse turbines. Although the efficiency peak of these turbines is lower than the Wells efficiency peak, they do not exhibit the sudden power drop, characteristic of Wells turbines. This study aims to compare these two types of turbines in situations of real operation, ie, as integral parts of the energy conversion chain of an OWC. The comparison has necessarily to be made on time domain, because the relation between flow coefficient and pressure coefficient of impulse turbine is non-linear. Further, it is known that turbine flow characteristics affect the absorption capacity of hydro-pneumatic chamber. It was also required to understand how the turbine affects the amount and the quality of electric energy, related to a strategy to control turbine rotation speed. In order to obtain realistic results, the numeric simulations were performed based on previous studies for the wave power plant proposed to integrate the new breakwater at the mouth of Douro River, Oporto. The site wave climate and the hydro-pneumatic chamber hydrodynamic coefficients were used. Turbine flow characteristics were obtained experimentally at IST laboratories [1].

2 Hydrodynamics
The hydrodynamic coefficients of the pneumatic chamber were calculated using the software WAMIT [2]. This software uses the panel method to calculate several characteristic coefficients of bodies hydrodynamic behavior subjected to wave field action. For OWC devices, it is necessary to calculate the transfer function that relates the diffracted flow, with the amplitude of the incident wave, and the function that relates the flow radiated by pressure inside the chamber. Thus, assuming that () is the excitationvolume-flow coefficient for regular incident waves of frequency and amplitude , we have [3, 4]: = | | . 2.1 A
BHwL , CHwL @m4skgD

0.06 0.04 0.02 0

- 0.02 - 0.04


1 w @radsD


Fig 2 Hydrodynamic coefficients: radiation conductance, (solid line, red), radiation susceptance (dashed line, blue).

For the radiated flow we have + = . 2.2

Linear water wave theory allows us to decompose the water flow that enters and exits the hydro-pneumatic chamber, , into diffracted flow , and radiated flow [4]: = + 2.3
G1HwL, G2HwL, G3HwL , G4HwL @m2sD

Wave climate of 46 sea states, characterized by significant wave height, energy periods and frequency of occurrence, was used in the present study. In the calculation of hydrodynamic coefficients, it is assumed that the system behaves linearly. Therefore, the nonlinear losses were not taken into consideration in calculating the hydrodynamic coefficients and hydrodynamic behavior. Thus, in order not to ignore these losses, it is assumed that they correspond to a decrease in incident energy, which is reflected as a significant reduction in height of waves at the site.

3 Turbine
The numerical simulations conducted in this study were based on the dimensionless curves obtained experimentally for the Wells and Impulse turbine [1]. These curves allow to relate the mass flow , to the differential pressure in the hydropneumatic chamber . Applying dimensional analysis for incompressible flows, we can write:

800 600 400 200 0


1 w @radsD


= , = , where, = , 3.1

Fig 1 Hydrodynamic coefficients: excitationvolume flow coefficient for different waves directions, (1 blue, for 60; 2 green, 50; 3 red, 40; 4 black, 30).

= =

= , 3.3

, 3.2

where is the pressure coefficient, the flow coefficient, the power coefficient and , , and , the density of air, the rotational speed and diameter of the turbine, respectively. The characteristic curves for the Wells turbine are plotted in Figures 3, 4 and 7
0,0030 0,0025 0,0020 0,0015 0,0005 0,0000 -0,0005 0,00 0,02 0,04 0,06 0,08 0,10

0,35 0,30 0,25 0,20 P 0,15 0,10 0,05 -0,01 0 0,05 0,1 0,15 0,2 0,25 0,3

Fig 5 - Impulse turbine power coefficient versus flow coefficient. 3,5 3,0 2,5 2,0 1,5 1,0 0,5 0,0 0 0,05 0,1 0,15 0,2 0,25 0,3

P 0,0010

Fig 6 - Impulse turbine pressure coefficient versus flow coefficient.

Fig 3 Wells turbine power coefficient versus flow coefficient. 0,30 0,25 0,20

Figure 7 shows the aerodynamic efficiency curves for the two turbines depending on the normalized flow coefficient.
0,8 0,6 0,4

0,15 0,10 0,05 0,00 0,00 0,02 0,04 F 0,06 0,08 0,10

turbina de aco turbina Wells

0,2 0,0 0,0 0,5 1,0 1,5 2,0 2,5 3,0 3,5 4,0 4,5 5,0 -0,2

Fig 4 Wells turbine pressure coefficient versus flow coefficient.

For the Impulse turbine, the characteristics curves are plotted in Figures 5, 6 and 7.


Fig 7 Wells and Impulse turbines aerodynamic efficiency versus normalized flow coefficient

4-System Mathematical Model

For a bottom-mounted OWC power plant, the mass balance is given by: = + , 4.1

where and are the density and volume of air under no perturbation, respectively. Assuming

= ; , equation (4.1) can be written as:


= ;

= . 4.2 The radiated flow is given by [5]: = , 4.3 where = the system memory function.

for computational simulation of the plant operation is 20 minutes for every sea state, solving equation (4.4) with time increments of = 0.1 seconds. It is accepted that 20 minutes is a time window long enough to have results statistically significant. It was found that with time increments of one tenth seconds solving equation (4.4), the obtained results were sufficiently accurate. The rotor diameters considered for the Wells turbine with and without by-pass air valve were, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0 m. For the Impulse turbine were 1.2, 1.7, 2.2, 2.7 m.

200 150

D=2 D=2.5 D=3

Pu [kW]

100 50 0 0

From equation (2.3) and equation (4.2) results the following expression representing the system dynamics, which should be solved numerically [6]: = + . 4.4




N [rad/s] Fig 8 Wells turbine average shaft power versus optimum rotation speed without rotation speed limits.

5-Results of Numerical Simulation

Simulations were conducted for each sea state, and each rotor diameter in order to optimize the turbine rotational speed. The optimum rotational speed for each sea state, and each rotor diameter is calculated by varying the turbines rotational speed in increments of 5 rad/s, and calculating the shaft power output. It is assumed that rotational speed does not change by wave cycle or wave groups effects, or if there is rotational speed variation, this is small enough so its influence can be ignored. Physically, this means that the inertia of rotating parts is large enough so that prevents significant variations of rotational speed for a given sea state. The time span

The data points resulting from numerical simulations, line up nearly perfectly in accordance with an equation of type . Because of sonic effects, the rotational speed of the Wells turbine has to be limited. It is assumed that tip velocity limit is 160 m/s. Figure 8 shows the relationship between average shaft power and optimum turbine rotational speed.

250 200


D=1.5 D=2

200 150

D=1.5 D=2 D=2,5 D=3

Pu [kW]

150 100 50 0 0

D=2,5 D=3

Pu [kW]
100 150 200 250

100 50 0


N [rad/s] Fig 9 Wells turbine average shaft power versus optimum rotation speed with rotation speed limits.






N [rad/s] Fig 10 Wells turbine average shaft power versus optimum rotation speed with rotation speed limits and fast relief valve.
250 200 150

Figure 3 shows that for flow coefficients around =0.045, the Wells turbine suffers a sharp decrease in shaft power output, by the effect of flow separation on the blades. This effect is even more important the smaller the diameter of the turbine, ie turbines with smaller diameters enter in aerodynamic loss more often. This effect can be avoided with the installation of rapid relief valves in parallel with the turbine, to control the maximum pressure in the pneumatic chamber, and thereby limit the flow rate through the turbine. Therefore, new simulations were performed considering the action of a fast relief valve. It was considered that the valve would have an ideal behavior. Figure 10 shows the relationship between average shaft power and rotational speed under these conditions. A significant increase in turbine power output is observed, when the plant is equipped with a fast relief valve. It was found that the root mean square of pressure in the pneumatic chamber is a variable that represents very well the plant operation state. Table 1 shows the results for the plant annual average shaft power (plant equipped with two equal turbo-electric generator sets). It shows the turbines gross power; shaft power, pneumatic power as well as mechanical and aerodynamic efficiencies, and capture widths of

D=1,2 D=1,7 D=2,2 D=2,7

Pu [kW]

100 50 0

150 N [rad/s] 100 Fig 11 Impulse turbine average shaft power versus optimum rotation speed without rotation speed limits.


hydro-pneumatic chamber for the four scenarios, and various diameters of the turbine rotor. It is found that the best scenario is achieved by the plant equipped with Wells turbines and fast relief valves. However, it should be noted that the model implemented considers an ideal relief valve. Thereby it is expected that for a real situation the power output should be lower. The ideal model for the fast relief valves do not take into account the expected losses in valves or the power consumed for valves control, as well as difficulties associated to control the valves opening and closing times. Therefore, smaller differences are expected in real situations for the power output of the plant equipped with Wells turbine and fast relief valve, compared to power output by plant equipped with Impulse turbines. It is expected that in real situation, the last should be the best scenario.

Shaft Power (kW) D=1.5 61.5 Wells turbine with D=2.0 no rotational D=2.5 speed limits D=3.0 D=1.5 Wells turbine with D=2.0 rotational speed D=2.5 limits D=3.0 Wells turbine with rotational speed limits and relief valve D=1.5 D=2.0 D=2.5 D=3.0 D=1.2 Impulse turbine D=1.7 D=2.2 D=2.7 81.3 93.4 96.7 58.2 79.1 92.6 96.6 70.5 91.2 102.2 103.4 60.4 85.3 99.8 102.5

Total Pneumatic. Power Power haer hm (kW) (kW) 62.8 120.1 0.52 0.98 0.51 83.1 95.6 99.3 59.5 80.8 94.8 99.2 71.6 92.7 104.2 105.8 62.3 87.9 102.9 105.7 157.9 181.4 187.2 125.0 161.0 182.3 187.3 116.5 153.0 174.6 179.7 105.3 150.1 177.5 184.2 0.53 0.98 0.53 0.98 0.53 0.97 0.48 0.98 0.50 0.98 0.52 0.98 0.53 0.97 0.61 0.98 0.61 0.98 0.60 0,98 0.59 0.98 0.59 0.97 0.59 0.97 0.58 0.97 0.57 0.97 0.52 0.52 0.52 0.47 0.49 0.51 0.52 0.60 0.60 0.59 0.58 0.57 0.57 0.56 0.56

Capture Width (m) (m) 9.84 12.67 14.35 14.75 13.76 14.96 15.47 15.18 8.29 11.82 13.98 14.51 4.59 6.23 7.29 7.60 8.32 8.91 9.06 8.74 4.76 6.71 7.86 8.07

Table 1 Annual average shaft power; annual average turbines total power; pneumatic power; aerodynamic efficiency; mechanic efficiency and annual average capture width for turbines different diameters.

Shaft Power and optimum diameters [kW] (1 turbine) Wells turbine with no rotational speed limits Wells turbine with rotational speed limits Wells turbine with rotational speed limits and relief valve D (m) 2.96 D (m) 3.01 D (m) 2.81 D (m) 2.59 Pu (kW) 48.4 Pu 48.3 Pu 52.0 Pu 51.5

Impulse turbine

Table 2 shows the turbines optimal diameters as well as the maximum shaft power for each of the four scenarios under consideration. Note that if the plant is equipped with Wells turbines and fast relief valves, the maximum annual average shaft power is 2x52.0 kW for Wells turbines with 2.81 m rotor diameter. For Impulse turbines, the maximum annual average shaft power is 2x51.5 kW, with rotor diameter of 2.59 m. It is therefore expected to be lost over 1 kW if the model for the rapid relief valves is more realistic. In this sense, it seems evident that the best solution would be achieved with impulse turbines. It should be noted that the analysis does not consider turbine rotational speed control.

Table 2Maximum annual average shaft power for optimum turbine diameters.

6-Turbine Rotational Speed Control

An effective way to improve turbine efficiency for different sea states and wave grouping is to allow variations of turbine rotational speed. Note that on the best turbine efficiency point (b.e.p.), flow rate and power output are proportional to and , respectively. The possibility to vary the turbine rotational speed permits the ability to set up rotational speed to each sea state, and thereby maximize the turbine average power output. It also has the beneficial effect to store energy in the form of kinetic energy, which allows smooth short time variations of electrical power supplied to the grid. Turbine aerodynamic efficiency, and the amount and quality of electric power, will naturally be strongly dependent on the strategy adopted to control instantaneous rotational speed. Rotational speed control is accomplished by acting on instantaneous electric generator torque imposed to turbine. Oscillations of electrical power supplied to the grid may be split into three time scales: i) Fluctuations of short time duration, typically on the order of half wave period, ie between 4 and 8 s, ii) Fluctuations of average time duration, associated with wave groups with time scales on the order of few tens of seconds; Long time duration oscillations, associated with variations of sea states. It is expected that the kinetic energy accumulated by flywheel effect can filter the power oscillations of short duration and help filter out the oscillations of average duration. In this study, a strategy is developed for controlling turbines rotational speed. The strategy took into consideration several factors: i) Rotational speed limit imposed to turbines by mechanical issues, aerodynamics, or imposed by the rotational speed range of electrical generator, ie . ii) The rotation speed will have to adjust to sea states in order to maximize the turbine power output. iii)

Electric energy quality to be supplied to the grid. iv) The power plant overall efficiency, given that variation in rotational speed change the pressure drop across the turbine, which influences the first stage of energy conversion chain, ie wave energy to pneumatic energy. v) The power plant monitoring procedure should be realistic, and the control algorithm should take as input, variables easily measurable and be suitable for on-line implement at the power plant Programmable Logic Control. The strategy adopted in this study was to control the torque of the electric generator, based on turbines average power curves functions of optimal rotation speed for each sea state. The electric generator torque must balance the turbine torque over long periods of time, so that the average speed of rotation is approximately the optimum rotation speed for a given sea state, ie: 1 , , , . 6.1 = Having knowledge of strategies previously developed, and the problems arising [7], after several attempts to define a more appropriate control law, we concluded that the following equation would have to be fulfilled: > 6.2 A piecewise function of the following kind could respond adequately to the objectives and requirements needed: = >

Where , , , are constants calculated according to each sea state. is the turbine rotation speed which limits each section of the control law. , is the rated generator power, is the inertia of rotating parts, and = /, the time derivative of the instantaneous electrical power accepted by grid. and are constants funded by solving the following system of two equations: = 6.4 = 1

rated generator power of 300 kW. It was found to be extremely difficult to control the rotational speed for this turbine for smaller rotational parts inertia. The control law developed in this work, has the ability to self-adjust appropriately to each sea state, taking as input only the pressure root mean square, which is a variable easy to measure, and little influenced by errors of pressure reading. The following figures show the behavior of the control law for dN=20 rad/s, and dN=60 rad/s, and the turbine shaft power . The , and , curves curve, intersection represents the optimum operation point for the Wells turbine with a diameter of 2 m, an inertia of, = 100 kg.m2, = 84 kWs-1, and a rated generator power of = 250 kW, for a sea state characterized by Hs=2.2m; Te=15.3s. For this sea state, the optimal operating point, has an average rotational speed of N=143.6 rad/s, for which the turbine can delivery a average shaft power = 50.0 kW. It can be observed in the of figures that the higher the value of dN, the smoother the progress of curve, and therefore higher rotational speed oscillations. It was observed that in general, this control strategy led to very good results in terms of quantity and quality of produced electricity, reasonably fulfilling the Portuguese electric grid regulation for almost all sea states regarded.

Being , , the optimum value of turbine rotational speed, and power output, for each sea state, respectively. In the control strategy developed, the values of , and for each sea state, are determined by correlations between them and the pressure root mean square in the pneumatic chamber. dN is a variable to be defined according to the allowed rotational speed oscillation range around the optimum value . It is found that turbines power output is sensitive to the rotational speed oscillation range. The inertia of rotating parts is extremely important with regard to the quality of electrical energy produced, and it can become critical for the more energetic sea states. For the numerical simulations performed with the control law defined above, it was decided that the diameters of the turbines would be D=2.0 m for the Wells turbines, and D=1.7 m for the Impulse turbine. For the Wells turbine, and Wells turbine in parallel with fast release valve (D=2.0 m), it was assigned a value of dN=20 rad/s, with a rotational parts inertia of 600 kg.m2. For the Wells turbine it was needed a rated generator power of 250 kW. For the Wells turbine in parallel with fast release valve it was needed a rated generator power of 300 kW. For Impulse turbine (D=1.7 m) was assigned a value of dN=13.2 rad/s, and a inertia of 1200 kg.m2. It was needed a

250 200 150 100 50 120 140 160 N @radsD 180 200

Fig 12 Turbine shaft power versus optimum rotation speed (blue line) and electric power control law imposed by electric generator to the turbine (red line); dN=60 rad/s Wells turbine D=2 m.

300 250 200 150 100 50 120 140 160 N @radsD 180 200

Fig 13 Turbine shaft power versus optimum rotation speed (blue line) and electric power control law imposed by electric generator to the turbine (red line); dN=20 rad/s Wells turbine D=2 m.

400 600 800 1000 10 x t @sD Fig 15 Instantaneous turbine shaft power (blue line) and instantaneous electric power versus time (red line) for Wells turbine (Hs=2.9 m; Te=11.2s, D=2m, with relief valve).
600 500 400 300 200 100 0 200 400 600 10 x t @sD 800 1000

pot. til; pot. elc @kWD

600 500 400 300 200 100 0 200

Figures 14, 15 and 16, show the turbine instantaneous shaft power (blue lines) and instantaneous electric power (red lines) for the Wells turbine, Wells turbine in parallel with fast relief valve and for the impulse turbine, for a sea state characterized by significant height Hs=2.9m and energy period Te=11.2s. It can be observed (Fig. 14) for this energetic sea state, that the Wells turbine spend significant operation time on aerodynamic stall conditions, which leads to a significant power reduction. For this sea state, the installation of a fast relief valve can avoid the turbine aerodynamic stall which improves the turbine aerodynamic performance and power output (Fig. 15). The impulse turbine has the advantage of not suffering the effects associated to aerodynamic stall (Fig. 16).
600 500 400 300 200 100 0 200

Fig 16 Instantaneous turbine shaft power (blue line) and instantaneous electric power versus time (red line) for Impulse turbine (Hs=2.9 m; Te=11.2s, D=1.7m).

The integration in the power plant of fast relief valves prevents the rapid power loss of Wells turbine, avoiding the major drawback of this type of turbine. It was observed that the integration of fast relief valves in parallel with the Wells turbine has a very beneficial effect in terms of electricity produced, which will enable to reduce the optimum turbine diameter, and consequent construction costs. It is possible to significantly increase the energy produced by the power plant if equipped with impulse turbines, compared to the energy production if the power plant is equipped with Wells turbine without relief valves. For the case of Wells turbine operating in parallel with fast relief valves, the energy produced by the Impulse turbine is only slightly lower. However the model used in numerical simulations for the fast relief valve, assumes, that it

400 600 800 1000 10 x t @sD Fig 14 Instantaneous turbine shaft power (blue line) and instantaneous electric power versus time (red line) for Wells turbine (Hs=2.9 m; Te=11.2s, D=2m, no relief valve).

pot. til ; pot. elc @kWD

pot. til ; pot. elc @kWD

7-Power plant operation time evolution


behaves optimally. Furthermore the energy required to control and operates the relief valves is ignored. Therefore, it is expected that a more realistic model for the operation of fast relief valves will lead to a reduction of produced energy compared to what can be achieved by the Impulse turbine. Taking into account the quality of energy produced, some difficulties were found on the effective rotation speed control of the Impulse turbine. For some sea states, it was not possible to produce electricity with the quality required by the grid.

production, Aplied Ocean Reserch 24, 73-82, 2002

[1] L.M.C. Gato, comunication, IST, 2008 Internal


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