Critical to evaluating the economic viability of a wave energy project is: (1) a robust estimate of the electricity production throughout the project lifetime and (2) an understanding of the uncertainty associated with said estimate. Standardization efforts have established mean annual energy production (MAEP) as the metric for quantification of wave energy converter (WEC) electricity production and the performance matrix approach as the appropriate method for calculation. General acceptance of a method for calculating the MAEP uncertainty has not yet been achieved. Several authors have proposed methods based on the standard engineering approach to error propagation, however, a lack of available WEC deployment data has restricted testing of these methods. In this work the magnitude and sensitivity of MAEP uncertainty is investigated. The analysis is driven by data from simulated deployments of 2 WECs of different operating principle at 4 different locations. A Monte Carlo simulation approach is proposed for calculating the variability of MAEP estimates and is used to explore the sensitivity of the calculation. The uncertainty of MAEP ranged from 2%–20% of the mean value. Of the contributing uncertainties studied, the variability in the wave climate was found responsible for most of the uncertainty in MAEP. Uncertainty in MAEP differs considerably between WEC types and between deployment locations and is sensitive to the length of the input data-sets. This implies that if a certain maximum level of uncertainty in MAEP is targeted, the minimum required lengths of the input data-sets will be different for every WEC-location combination.
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