Wave resource characterization is a critical step for wave energy converter deployment in the coastal ocean and relies on long-term, high-resolution wave datasets. This study presents a detailed modeling study of the wave resource along the U.S. West Coast (Washington, Oregon, and California), a coastal region that was identified with high wave energy potential in earlier studies.
The wave hindcast covers a 32-year period from 1979 to 2010 and is based on a multi-resolution, unstructured-grid SWAN model framework. Model configuration closely follows and meets the requirements recommended by the International Electrotechnical Commission Technical Specification (IEC TS) for wave energy resource assessment and characterization (Class 2 - feasibility study). The model domain covers the entire U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the West Coast and has a spatial resolution varying from ~300 m in the nearshore region (20 km from the shoreline) to ~2500 m within the EEZ and ~5000 m at the open boundary, which extends beyond the EEZ. The model was forced by hourly 2-D wave spectra produced by a two-way nested WaveWatch III model, which covers the global ocean domain and the broader U.S. West Coast region domain with spatial resolutions of 0.5 degree and 10 arc-minutes, respectively. Both wave models are forced by hourly, 0.5-degree wind forcing obtained from NCEP's Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR) product.
The standard model output for the SWAN model includes 3-hourly output for the six IEC wave resource parameters (e.g., omnidirectional wave power) at each grid point and hourly 2-D spectra at more than 50 NDBC buoys. Extensive model validation was achieved by comparing the six model-predicted IEC parameters with those derived from field observations at representative NDBC buoys. The error statistics indicated the model's satisfactory performance. Further analyses were conducted to systematically evaluate the temporal and spatial distributions of wave energy potential and wave climate along the U.S. West Coast. Results suggest that Washington and Oregon coasts have similar nearshore wave resource, which is significantly higher than resources in Southern California. Strong seasonal variations are also observed, e.g., high wave energy tends to occur in the winter months. In summary, this study produced the first high-resolution, comprehensive dataset on wave energy distribution along the U.S. West Coast.
The results are being used by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to update the MHK Atlas, which was originally derived from NOAA's 4-arc-minute WaveWatch III model output. In addition, the monthly averaged wave energy climatology dataset can be readily shared to support a variety of research and application efforts within the EEZ of the U.S. West Coast.