Techno-Economic Implications of Electrical Machine Scaling for Wave Energy Converters

Aryana Nakhai, Ben McGilton

Research output: NRELPresentation


The sizing of an electrical machine for a Wave Energy Converter (WEC) can have a substantial impact on the overall sizing, cost, and rating of the device. An electrical generator is typically part of the power take-off (PTO) system, which is the mechanism by which the energy absorbed by the prime mover is transformed into useable electrical. For practically all WECs, the rate of change of actuation is predominantly determined by the wave resource (i.e., the wave height and frequency) and devices will see a sinusoidally varying velocity according to the wave conditions. The same can then be said for both directly and indirectly coupled PTOs with electrical generators. This techno-economic study investigates electrical machine scaling and associated cost implications through core machine design theory, manufacturer data, supporting literature, and the DOE sponsored Reference Model Project (RMP). The RMP was a partnered effort to develop open-source marine energy (ME) point designs as reference models (RMs) to benchmark ME technology performance and costs, methods for design and analysis of ME technologies, estimations for capital costs, operational costs, and levelized costs of energy (LCOE). The results from this study show torque is directly related to (1) the physical size of the machine required to increase the airgap sheer stresses, (2) the amount of active material, (3) the support structure, (4) bearing size and rating, and (5) offshore cable rating, all of which have a significant effect on overall system costs in terms of both CAPEX and OPEX. This paper aims to be a critical benchmark in helping determine an “optimal” nameplate rating for wave energy devices and their associated PTO. With an optimized rating and sizing process, WEC costs can be reduced, and overall performance can be improved.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePresented at OCEANS 2022, 17-20 October 2022, Virginia Beach, Virginia

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-5700-83984


  • cables
  • cost
  • electrical machine
  • force
  • induction
  • mass
  • permanent magnet
  • power
  • PTO
  • rating
  • scaling
  • torque
  • wave energy
  • WEC


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