Because the wave energy industry is still in its infancy, an optimal design for wave energy converters (WECs) has yet to be established; more work is needed to explore various cost-reduction pathways. The primary cost-reduction pathway considered for this work is the optimization of the geometric profile on an attenuator WEC to maximize power production while, at the same time, minimizing capital expenditures through the use of variable-geometry modules. In this investigation, the variable-geometry modules consist of inflatable bags placed on either side of a base central steel cylinder that would be inflated in low-moderate sea states to maximize power capture and then deflated in moderate-extreme sea states to minimize wave loading. The numerical model and simulation of the attenuator WEC were developed and completed using WEC-Sim, which is an open-source code that is appropriate for use in evaluating the dynamic response of the different WEC models in operational seas. The power production estimates were obtained from the Wave Energy Prize (WEP) sea states, which are representative of U. S. deployment sites, to calculate the average climate capture width that is used in the WEP ACE calculation. Preliminary capital expenditure costs were obtained assuming the base central steel cylinder mass was equal to the fluid displaced mass, minus the mass of the variable-geometry bags. The additional weight required to offset the additional buoyancy from the variable-geometry bags was assumed to come from the addition of seawater ballast. The variable-geometry attenuator model was found to have a similar power capture efficiency as a fixed-body model, but is expected to have a lower characteristic capital expenditure given its more streamlined profile, which demonstrates that variable-geometry modules may provide a realistic cost-reduction pathway to help design a more cost-competitive WEC.

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