Development of a new class of Wave Energy Converter based on hydrodynamic lift forces (LIFTWEC)
It is well understood that there is a significant need for humanity to move away from reliance on fossil fuels and transition towards the generation of energy from more sustainable sources. Whilst significant commercialisation has taken place in wind and solar energy technologies, ocean wave energy remains a very significant, yet untapped source of renewable energy; although it has the potential to make a significant contribution to the future energy system. To date, many hundreds of Wave Energy Converter (WEC) concepts have been proposed, however, no technology has yet proven commercially viable owing to a number of significant and complex difficulties which have bene found to be common across many different device types.
Literature studies and patent searches indicate that the extreme vast majority of the systems that have been considered to date operate through exploitation of either the buoyancy or diffraction force regimes, interacting with either the displacement or acceleration of fluid particle motions respectively. By comparison, very little work has focused on the development of systems which might operate through interaction with the fluid particle velocities in order to generate a lift-based driving force. However, using hydrodynamic lift in a WEC has a number of significant advantages which directly address many of the issues which frustrated the commercial viability of more traditional device types.
Consequently, the LiftWEC project aims to develop a novel type of WEC whose primary coupling with the waves is through the generation of hydrodynamic lift on a series of rotating hydrofoil. That is, the system consists of one or more hydrofoils that is driven by the waves to rotate around an axis orthogonal to the direction of wave propagation. It is intended that the project will develop a technology from Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 1 to TRL 3. This will be achieved by a combination of numerical/physical modelling and desk-based studies of the structural design, operational & maintenance and the environmental/social impacts of the technology.
Queen's University Belfast personnel involved:
Grant secured by Professor Trevor Whittaker (retired).
Current Principle Investigator – Dr Carwyn Frost.
Co-Investigator – Dr Wesley Flannery.
Project Manager – Dr Matt Folley.
Research Fellow – Dr Paul Lamont-Kane.
Impact of Research
As the project is only approaching the mid-term milestone, it is currently too early to detail the impact of the project. However, results obtained across the consortium suggest that lift-based wave energy converters may be able to extract a greater portion of the available wave energy from a sea than many traditional Wave Energy Converters. Furthermore, it seems probable that this can be achieved with a significant reduction in operational, extreme, and fatigue loads compared to traditional device types. If these findings hold up to further investigation, this could dramatically reduce the cost of energy produced, providing a path towards commercial development of the wave energy sector.
In addition, the project continues to identify opportunities for protection of intellectual property as the research continues. Where appropriate, these protections will be obtained to encourage private sector uptake and exploitation of the research completed. The latter stages of the project will also seek to increase academic and industrial awareness of the project outputs, including the development of a Business Case for the technology, outlining the ultimate potential of the technology and, if appropriate, a roadmap to see the technology further developed in academic/industrial settings.
Major grants and funding
The LiftWEC project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under Grant Agreement No 851885. Total grant value: € 3,404,730.
M. Folley and T. J. T. Whittaker, “Lift-based wave energy converters – an analysis of their potential,” 13th European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference. Naples, Italy, 2019.
P. Lamont-Kane and M. Folley, “Preliminary investigations into the hydrodynamic performance of lift-based wave energy converters,” in Proceedings of the 14th European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference (EWTEC), 2021. (under review)
M. Folley and P. Lamont-Kane, “Optimum water depth for lift-based wave energy converters,” in Proceedings of the 14th European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference (EWTEC), 2021. (under review)
Queen’s University Belfast: https://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/NBE/Research/ResearchClusters/EnvironmentalChangeandResilience/MarineResearchGroup/
Hamburg University of Technology: https://www.tuhh.de/fds/home.html
National University of Ireland Maynooth: https://coer.maynoothuniversity.ie/
Aalborg University: https://www.en.build.aau.dk/research/research-groups/ocean-and-coastal-engineering/
University College Cork: https://www.ucc.ie/en/
LHEEA Centrale Nantes: https://lheea.ec-nantes.fr/
Julia F Chozas Consulting Engineer: https://juliafchozas.com/
University of Strathclyde: https://www.strath.ac.uk/
Sustainable Development Goals
The LiftWEC project responds to the call for action on the following Sustainable Development Goals (https://sdgs.un.org/goals):
- # 7 Affordable and clean energy
- # 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure
- # 11 Sustainable cities and communities
- # 13 Climate action
- # 14 Life below water
Find out more
- Trevor Whittaker https://pure.qub.ac.uk/en/persons/trevor-whittaker
- Carwyn Frost https://pure.qub.ac.uk/en/persons/carwyn-frost
- Matthew Foley https://pure.qub.ac.uk/en/persons/matthew-folley
- Paul Lamont Kane https://pure.qub.ac.uk/en/persons/paul-lamont-kane
LiftWEC Social Media: