There is a vast amount of renewable energy out there that has yet to be tapped. Ocean waves contain an amazing amount of energy, but so far only small pilot programs have been deployed for harnessing that energy and many have been unsuccessful. But NASA and the Department of Energy want to change that and they're looking to all of us for help.
NASA and the DOE have set up a crowdsourcing campaign to find the best ideas for harnessing wave energy for producing electricity and they're offering up some great tools.
"It takes a lot of money to build something, deploy it in the water and test it," said Noël Bakhtian of the DOE's Wind and Water Power Technologies Office. "It would be a lot easier to have computational tools, where you can study a whole range of inputs and say, 'What if I made the device twice as big? What if the wavelength of the waves was a little bit different? What if I pushed it out into the ocean a little bit deeper?'"The DOE is creating a modeling tool called WEC-Sim (Wave Energy Converter Simulator), which allows researchers to see how well their design actually captures the energy in the motion of waves under different ocean conditions. NASA is developing part of that software tool and that's where the crowd comes in.
The agency is sponsoring a challenge called OpenWARP for Open-Source Wave Analysis and Response Program. The software is open source and modular so that users can help to improve parts of it or the whole thing as well as use it to come up with great wave energy technologies.
Like building with Legos, researchers, engineers and anyone with an interest in wave energy can use the software to build their own great ideas.
“We want universities to be able to use it, we want garage inventors to be able to use it,” said NREL’s Mike Lawson. He added that making it open source will allow researchers “to change the tools to model whatever new, wacky device you’ve got that the original software developers didn’t think of.”
NASA expects to see some creative ideas come out of the challenge from all over the world and from many different perspectives. If you want to contribute, you can do so here. The challenge runs through the end of the year.