A wave energy converter (WEC) system has the potential to convert the wave energy resource directly into the high-pressure flow that is needed by the desalination system to pump saltwater to the reverse-osmosis membrane and provide the required pressure level to generate freshwater. In this study, a wave-to-water numerical model was developed to investigate the potential use of a wave-powered desalination system (WPDS) for water production. The model was developed by coupling a time-domain radiation-and-diffraction method-based numerical tool (WEC-Sim) for predicting the hydrodynamic performance of WECs with a solution-diffusion model that was used to simulate the reverse-osmosis (RO) process. The objective of this research is to evaluate the WPDS dynamics and the overall efficiency of the system. To evaluate the feasibility of the WPDS, the wave-to-water numerical model was applied to simulate a desalination system that used an oscillating surge WEC device to pump seawater through the system. The hydrodynamics WEC-Sim simulation results for the oscillating surge WEC device were validated against existing experimental data. The RO simulation was verified by comparing the results to those from the Dow Chemical Company’s reverse osmosis system analysis (ROSA) model, which has been widely used to design and simulate RO systems. The wave-to-water model was then used to analyze the WPDS under a range of wave conditions and for a two-WECs-coupled RO system to evaluate the influence of pressure and flow rate fluctuation on the WPDS performance. The results show that the instantaneous energy fluctuation from waves has a significant influence on the responding hydraulic pressure and flow rate, as well as the recovery ratio and, ultimately, the water-production quality. Nevertheless, it is possible to reduce the hydraulic fluctuation for different sea states while maintaining a certain level of freshwater production, and a WEC array that produces water can be a viable, near-term solution to the nation’s water supply. A discussion on the dynamic impact of hydraulic fluctuation on the WPDS performance and potential options to reduce the fluctuation and their trade-offs is also presented.
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