Effect of Heave Plate Hydrodynamic Force Parameterization on a Two-Body Wave Energy Converter

Curtis Rusch, James Joslin, Benjamin Maurer, Brian Polagye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Heave plates are one approach to generating the reaction force necessary to harvest energy from ocean waves. In a Morison equation description of the hydrodynamic force, the components of drag and added mass depend primarily on the heave plate oscillation. These terms may be parameterized in three ways: (1) as a single coefficient invariant across sea state, most accurate at the reference sea state, (2) coefficients dependent on the oscillation amplitude, but invariant in phase, that are most accurate for relatively small amplitude motions, and (3) coefficients dependent on both oscillation amplitude and phase, which are accurate for all oscillation amplitudes. We validate a MATLAB model for a two-body point absorber wave energy converter against field data and a dynamical model constructed in ProteusDS. We then use the MATLAB model to evaluate the effect of these parameterizations on estimates of heave plate motion, tension between the float and heave plate, and wave energy converter electrical power output. We find that power predictions using amplitude-dependent coefficients differ by up to 30% from models using invariant coefficients for regular waves ranging in height from 0.5 to 1.9 m. Amplitude- and phase-dependent coefficients, however, yield less than a 5% change when compared with coefficients dependent on amplitude only. This suggests that amplitude-dependent coefficients can be important for accurate wave energy converter modeling, but the added complexity of phase-dependent coefficients yields little further benefit. We show similar, though less pronounced, trends in maximum tether tension, but note that heave plate motion has only a weak dependence on coefficient fidelity. Finally, we emphasize the importance of using experimentally derived added mass over that calculated from boundary element methods, which can lead to substantial under-prediction of power output and peak tether tension.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)355-367
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Ocean Engineering and Marine Energy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5700-83411


  • dynamical model
  • heave plate
  • numerical model
  • wave energy


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