An investigation of the wave energy resource on the South African Coast, focusing on the spatial distribution of the South West coast

Joubert, J. R. (Stellenbosch : University of Stellenbosch, 2008-03)


This thesis is an investigation of the wave power resource on the South African coast, focusing on the spatial distribution of wave power of the coastal region exposed to the highest wave power. The study’s main objective is to provide a detailed description of the spatial distribution of wave power to assist in the selection of locations for deployment of Wave Energy Converter (WEC) units in this zone. The study methodology employed to achieve this main objective entails an analysis of measured wave data recorded at wave recording stations distributed along the South African coast. The analysis provided a general description of wave power at locations for which wave data exist. From this analysis it was found that the South West Coast is exposed to the highest wave power, with an average wave power of approximately 40 kW per meter wave crest. The rest of the South African coast is exposed to average wave power between approximately 18 kW/m to 23 kW/m. The wave power characteristics on the South West Coast region (from Cape Point to Elands Bay) were therefore the focus of this thesis. The study objective was achieved by transferring deep sea wave data into the nearshore South West Coast study area with the Simulating WAves Nearshore (SWAN) wave model. The deep sea wave data was obtained from a 10 year period of available hindcast data. A simplified simulation procedure was required in order to make the study practically feasible. A sensitivity analysis was carried out to determine the validity of the simplified simulation procedure and it was found that the procedure slightly overestimate wave power in the shallower water regions due to the underestimation of energy dissipation processes. This overestimation was deemed acceptable for the dominant wave conditions and the simplified model was therefore applied in the study. An appropriate programming system was developed and used to transfer the available 10 year deep sea wave data into the selected South West Coast region. From this exercise spatial distribution of wave power and related statistical parameters were obtained for the study area. The accuracy of the modelled output was investigated by directly comparing it to wave data recorded during the overlapping recording period. It was found that the model slightly overestimates the monthly wave power resource compared to the measured data with a maximum overestimation of 9%; which is sufficiently accurate for the purpose of the study. The results of this investigation can be used for the identification of areas of high wave power concentration within the study area for the location of WEC units. Further numerical modelling is required for the detailed design of wave farms, especially if potential sites are located in shallow water (shallower than approximately 50 m).

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