This numerical study compares the wave field generated by the spectral wave action balance code, SNL-SWAN, to the linear-wave boundary-element method (BEM) code, WAMIT. The objective of this study is to assess the performance of SNL-SWAN for modeling wave field effects produced by individual wave energy converters (WECs) and wave farms comprising multiple WECs by comparing results from SNL-SWAN with those produced by the BEM code WAMIT. BEM codes better model the physics of wave-body interactions and thus simulate a more accurate near-field wave field than spectral codes. In SNL-SWAN, the wave field’s energy extraction is modeled parametrically based on the WEC’s power curve. The comparison between SNL-SWAN and WAMIT is made over a range of incident wave conditions, including short-, medium-, and long-wavelength waves with various amounts of directional spreading, and for three WEC archetypes: a point absorber (PA), a pitching flap (PF) terminator, and a hinged raft (HR) attenuator. Individual WECs and wave farms of five WECs in various configuration were studied with qualitative comparisons made of wave height and spectra at specific locations, and quantitative comparisons of the wave fields over circular arcs around the WECs as a function of radial distance. Results from this numerical study demonstrate that in the near-field, the difference between SNL-SWAN and WAMIT is relatively large (between 20% and 50%), but in the far-field from the array the differences are minimal (between 1% and 5%). The resultant wave field generated by the two different numerical approaches is highly dependent on parameters such as: directional wave spreading, wave reflection or scattering, and the WEC’s power curve.
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