Oscillating water column (OWC) wave energy converters (WECs) are a popular type of wave energy devices. Generally, the OWC WECs have a simple structure and working principle, but with a high conversion efficiency, and a high reliability in power take-off due to a small torque and a high rotation speed for a certain power extraction. The OWC devices convert wave energy into pneumatic energy primarily by producing the pressured and de-pressured air (pneumatic energy) in the air chamber through the motions of the interior water surface in the water column. Conventionally, the pneumatic energy is converted into mechanical energy through an air turbine (in small scaled model, an orifice or porous membrane material is used for non-linear or linear power take-off modelling). However, these processes are very limitedly understood due to the complexities of the hydrodynamics, aerodynamics, and thermodynamics and their coupling effects. Theoretical and numerical attempts are very limited, especially when the coupling effects are included. As a result of the difficulties, in the device development, the most popular and acceptable approach may be the model tests, with different scaling factors in their corresponding development stages, as recommended by the relevant wave energy development protocols. To reduce the dependencies on the physical modelling in the OWC device development, numerical methods are very desirable to accommodate the simulation and assessment of the hydrodynamic and aerodynamic/thermodynamic performances of the OWC WECs. This is the main target of this investigation.
In this numerical simulation, the hydrodynamic performances (including the motions of the structure and the interior water surface in waves) are carried out by employing a conventional boundary element method (i.e., WAMIT in this case) in frequency domain. To include the effects of the airflow passing through an orifice, its aerodynamic performance is much simplified by assuming its effects on the hydrodynamic performance through some extra damping coefficients to the motions of the floating structure and to the motion of the interior water surface. In this way, the interior water surface response can be obtained for the coupling effects of the hydrodynamics and aerodynamics of the OWC WEC. In this regard, an important issue in the numerical simulation is to seek an appropriate representation of the damping levels.