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Robert Cavagnaro

Senior Engineer






Rob Cavagnaro joined the OE department as a Senior Engineer after completing a postdoctoral appointment in the same department. He received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington in 2016. He researches marine renewable energy including current stream and wave technologies. His focus is on modeling device dynamics, designing electromechanical power take-off systems, improving total system efficiency, and developing and testing advanced control strategies. He has previously conducted a U.S. Department of Energy EERE Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at University College Cork, Ireland, where he advanced the technique of electromechanical emulation of turbine systems.

Department Affiliation

Ocean Engineering


B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, 2007

M.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Washington, 2013

Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering, University of Washington, 2016


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Field performance assessment of a hydrokinetic turbine

Cavagnaro, R.J., and B. Polagye, "Field performance assessment of a hydrokinetic turbine," Int. J. Mar. Energy, 14, 125-142, doi:10.1016/j.ijome.2016.01.009, 2016.

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1 Jun 2016


• Performance of a high-solidity cross-flow hydrokinetic turbine is determined.
• System efficiency is shown to depend on the variable performance of a generator.
• Laboratory dynamometry can be used to characterize component efficiency.
• Lab testing emulates the steady-state performance of the field-tested turbine.
• Power take-off characterization minimizes number of required field measurements.

Evaluation of electromechanical systems dynamically emulating a candidate hydrokinetic turbine

Cavagnaro, R.J., J.C. Neely, F.-X. Fa, J.L. Mendia, and J.A. Rea, "Evaluation of electromechanical systems dynamically emulating a candidate hydrokinetic turbine," IEEE Trans. Sustain. Energy, 7, 390-399, doi:10.1109/TSTE.2015.2492943, 2016.

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1 Jan 2016

Implications of conducting hardware-in-the-loop testing of a specific hydrokinetic turbine on controllable motor-generator sets or electromechanical emulation machines (EEMs)are explored. The emulator control dynamic equations are presented, methods for scaling turbine parameters are developed and evaluated, and experimental results are presented from three EEMs programmed to emulate the same vertical-axis fixed-pitch turbine. Although hardware platforms and control implementations varied, results show that each EEM is successful in emulating the turbine model at different power levels, thus demonstrating the general feasibility of the approach. However, performance of motor control under torque command, current command, or speed command differed. In a demonstration of the intended use of an EEM for evaluating a hydrokinetic turbine implementation, a power takeoff controller tracks the maximum power-point of the turbine in response to turbulence. Utilizing realistic inflow conditions and control laws, the emulator dynamic speed response is shown to agree well at low frequencies with numerical simulation but to deviate at high frequencies.

Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center