A wave energy converter (WEC) system has the potential to convert the wave energy resource directly into the high-pressure flow that is needed by the desalination system to permeate saltwater through the reverse-osmosis membrane to generate clean water. In this study, a wave-to-water numerical model was developed to investigate the potential use of a wave-powered desalination system (WPDS) for water production in the United States. The model was developed by coupling a time-domain radiation-and-diffraction-method-based numerical tool (WEC-Sim) for predicting the hydrodynamic performance of WECs with a solution-diffusion model that was used to simulate the reverse-osmosis process. To evaluate the feasibility of the WPDS, the wave-to-water numerical model was applied to simulate a desalination system that used an oscillating surge WEC device to pump seawater through the system. The annual water production was estimated based on the wave resource at a reference site on the coast of northern California to investigate the potential cost of water in that area, where the cost of water and electricity is high compared to other regions. In the scenario evaluated, for a 100-unit utility-scale array, the estimated levelized cost of energy for these WECs is about 3–6 times the U.S.’s current, unsubsidized electricity rates. However, with clean water as an end product and by directly producing pressurized water with WECs, rather than electricity as an intermediary, it is presently only 12% greater than typical water cost in California. This study suggests that a WEC array that produces water may be a viable, near-term solution to the nation’s water supply, and the niche application of the WPDS may also provide developers with new opportunities to further develop technologies that benefit both the electric and drinking water markets.

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