The oscillating-water-column (OWC) wave energy converter consists of a hollow (fixed or floating) structure, open to the sea below the water surface. Wave action alternately compresses and decompresses the air trapped above the inner water free-surface, which forces air to flow through a turbine coupled to a generator. The spring-like effect of air compressibility in the chamber is related to the density-pressure relationship. It is known to significantly affect the power performance of the full-sized converter, and is normally not accounted for in model testing at reduced scale. Three theoretical models of increasing complexity are analysed and compared: (i) the incompressible air model; (ii) the isentropic process model; (iii) and the (more difficult and rarely adopted) adiabatic non-isentropic process model in which losses due to the imperfectly efficient turbine are accounted for. The air is assumed as a perfect gas. The hydrodynamic modelling of wave energy absorption is based on linear water wave theory. The validity of the various simplifying assumptions, especially in the aero-thermodynamic domain, is examined and discussed. The validity of the three models is illustrated by a case study with numerical results for a fixed-structure OWC equipped with a Wells turbine subject to irregular waves.

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