Machine Design

FEA Builds an Efficient Wave-Power Machine

Ansys Inc.,

Green Ocean Energy Ltd.,

Renewable-energy company Green Ocean Energy Ltd. in England is using FEA software to analyze and optimize the company’s wave-power machine for generating electricity from the north Atlantic ocean. The machine bobs on the surface of the water while waves cause the device’s floating arms to move up and down and power onboard generators. Electricity is sent back to shore via underwater cables. Each machine produces 500 kW of electricity — enough to power 125 homes — so a farm of 30 devices would have a rating of 15 MW.

The energy firm applied hydrodynamic and structural software from Ansys Inc., Canonsburg, Pa., to balance structural strength versus weight restrictions. Intended to last 25 years, the machines must withstand rough waters and gale-force winds. Yet, structural members must be lightweight enough both for sufficient flotation and to keep production costs on budget.

“Prototypes cost over $3 million dollars each and take months to construct, so numerous rounds of hardware test-and-redesign cycles are impractical,” says Managing Director of Green Ocean Energy George Smith. “The virtual-prototyping capabilities of the software are critical in getting the machines to produce maximum energy output and operate effectively for decades. Engineering simulation is helping us meet the project’s deadlines, technical requirements, and business objectives.

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