The U.S. Department of the Interior, Minerals Management Service (MMS) is now tasked to collaborate with research institutions and industry on testing ocean wave and current energy conversion systems. Accordingly, MMS recently expanded the mission of its Ohmsett Facility to include such testing and research, Ohmsett, The National Oil Spill Response Research & Renewable Energy Test Facility, has one of the largest outdoor saltwater tanks in North America and is designed to evaluate the performance of model- and full-scale equipment under realistic environmental conditions. The facility, operated by MAR Incorporated under contract to MMS, is located at the Naval Weapons Station Earle Waterfront facility in Leonardo, New Jersey (about one hour drive south of New York City).

At the heart of Ohmsett is a very large outdoor, above-ground concrete test tank that is 203 meters long, 20 meters wide 3.5 meters deep and holds 10 million liters of crystal clear salt water. The Ohmsett tank is equipped with three movable bridges providing speeds of up to 6.5 knots, programmable in 1/100th knot increments, to simulate ocean currents or vehicle speeds. The robust tow bridges are able to accommodate the torques and forces of the largest current turbines and wave energy converter (WEC) equipment. The Control Tower is fully computerized and data from various sensors and video cameras are collected for analysis.

The Ohmsett tank system allows testing of fullscale equipment. The tank's wave generator creates realistic sea environments, while state-of-the-art data collection and video systems record test results. The data collection system is capable of recording up to 32 channels. The facility has proven to be ideal for testing developmental equipment, subjecting research findings to validation, and evaluating acquisition options.

The new generator system, located at the south end of the tank, can produce waves at discrete frequencies with heights up to one meter, as well as FM Slides, and JONSWAP or Pierson-Moskowitz spectra with controlling parameters of driving wind velocity and scale ratio. Recognizing physical limits on wave-maker stroke, probabilities of clipping on axes of these two parameter values are displayed with their touch-pad selections. The theoretical stroke-to-wave height transfer gain of the wave flap is being compared with a number of measurement observations. Customers may specify their own wave characteristics if they are not adequately represented by these standard types. A new beach system is being developed at the north end of the tank that will allow long runs of variable wave incidence with minimal interference from reflections. The facility includes a well-equipped machine shop and assembly area, and extensive lifting and transport capabilities. As well as its renewables mission, “Oil Patch” business is invited. Potential users will find a skilled technical staff, relaxed hands-on atmosphere and a very attractive financial environment.

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