Oscillating Water Column (OWC) devices, both the fixed structures and the floating ones, are an important class of Wave Energy Converter (WEC) devices. In this work, we carried out a numerical investigation aiming to give a deep insight into the fluid dynamic interaction between waves and a U-shaped OWC breakwater, focusing on the energy conversion process. The U-OWC breakwater under consideration, represents the full-scale plant installed in the Civitavecchia (near Rome) harbour. The adopted numerical method is based on the solution of the unsteady Reynolds Averaged Navier-Stokes equations (URANS). The water-air interaction is taken into account by means of the Volume Of Fluid (VOF) model. A two-dimensional domain has been adopted to investigate the unsteady flow outside and inside the OWC device. In order to simulate the action of an air turbine of the Wells type, the air chamber has been connected to the atmosphere by means of a porous medium able to reproduce its linear relationship between pressure drop and flow rate of the air turbine. Several simulations have been carried out considering periodic waves of different amplitudes in order to analyze the performance of the plant and, in particular to analyze the resonance with incoming waves, when the U-OWC is expected to absorb more energy. In order to characterize the plant efficiency, we split the energy conversion process into three main steps, 1) the primary conversion from wave energy to hydraulic energy the water discharge flowing inside the U-duct; 2) the secondary conversion from the OWC inlet to the oscillating pneumatic power made available to the turbine and, finally, 3) the turbine mechanical power output. To this purpose, the simulations of three different cases, varying wave period and height, have been carried out to quantify the energy captured by the plant and the fluid dynamic losses both in the water and in the air.
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