This post has been a long time in the making. No matter how hard I try to stay on top of things early in the quarter, November and December always end up being a bit of a whirlwind. I have (finally!) finished the quarter, and I have moved on to regular 40 hour work weeks. It almost feels like vacation.
This quarter was a particularly busy one. In addition to my classes, I was presenting my research at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, a weeklong conference in San Francisco that gathers more than 20,000 researchers from a range of fields. The conference very inconveniently occurs during finals week, but it’s an incredible opportunity to interact with fellow scientists and to learn more about the work being conducted in the field.
A bit of background: I am an MS candidate at Oregon State University and one of three Robert E. Malouf scholars for 2014. I work with Dr. Merrick Haller in the Coastal and Ocean Engineering group on the effects of offshore Wave Energy Converter (WEC) arrays on the nearshore wave field. This research is part of a large and multidisciplinary effort to understand the potential environmental impacts of WEC devices. The Malouf Fellowship allows me to be more active in the scientific community through conferences such as AGU and the Marine Energy Technology Symposium (METS) (where I will be presenting my research in April 2014) and it has given me insight into other Sea Grant related work being done at a more local level. I am very grateful for the support of the Oregon Sea Grant and for the opportunity to be part of the Sea Grant community.
More specifically, my research focuses on how the presence of WEC arrays changes the waves at the shoreline, and the potential impacts of these changes on nearshore processes. WEC devices extract energy from the waves, which results in a low energy area behind the devices, referred to as the WEC shadow. The extraction of energy results in a reduction in wave height and a change in wave direction in the WEC shadow. Wave height and direction are important parameters in nearshore processes, and are especially important in the generation of rip currents and longshore currents that drive sediment transport. Coastal erosion is a serious problem on certain parts of the Oregon coast. Could the deployment of offshore WEC arrays increase erosion in vulnerable areas? Could it result in the generation of rip currents that pose serious risks for swimmers and beach users? If so, where? It is important to understand the potential impacts of WEC arrays in order to choose the best size, design, and location for arrays before they are deployed.
To address these issues, I am using the numerical model SWAN to simulate the changes on the wave field resulting from each individual device. The past few months I have spent developing a technique for representing the WEC arrays in the model, and then applying this technique on an idealized coastline to make a few general conclusions about the effects of WEC arrays on the nearshore zone. In the upcoming months, I will be using this same technique to simulate arrays at two permitted wave energy test sites off the coast of Newport, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) North Energy Test Site (NETS) and the South Energy Test Site (SETS), using high resolution bathymetry and directional wave spectra from a 2011 hindcast. This will allow us to gain insight into the effects of WEC arrays on a more realistic coastline, and to see how the deployment of a WEC array could potentially affect the nearshore environment and communities in the Newport area.
I am happy with the progress I’ve made in the past few months, and I’m really excited to continue. At the moment, though, I am very ready to enjoy winter break. Happy 2014!