The world has significant marine and hydrokinetic energy (marine energy) resources. As tomorrow’s next-gen renewable, wave, tidal, ocean current technologies are capable of providing predictable, consistent and affordable clean power. While these technologies are currently in various stages of research, development and deployment, industry estimates have pegged U.S. marine energy’s potential at 90 GW. In Florida alone, an estimated 4 to 10 GW of potential is thought possible, according to a University of Florida study.
Types of Marine Energy
The Path to Commercialization
As a burgeoning industry, marine energy is squarely focused on market acceleration and deployment. And recently, the industry has crossed a number of key milestones:
- The first U.S. grid-connected wave energy test facility became fully operational in July at a military base in Hawaii.
- The Pacific Marine Energy Center has been awarded $40 million in funding to build the first U.S. open-ocean, power grid-connected wave energy test facility about six nautical miles off the coast of Newport, Ore. The test site is a partnership made up of Oregon State University, the University of Washington, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
- Energy Department’s Wave Energy Prize: DOE’s Wave Energy Prize competition brought together nearly 100 teams of energy innovators and tasked them with doubling the threshold of convertible energy from ocean waves. The winner, Team AquaHarmonics, won a $1.5 million prize to continue developing their device which generates power on the rise of a wave and then generators act as motors to reel in the device for the next wave cycle. Read More
- Florida Atlantic University is permitted for offshore ocean current testing in the gulf stream.
International Community Outpaces U.S. in Funding Innovation
In many respects, marine energy technologies are where wind and solar were in developmental more than a decade ago. And while there are similarities in trajectory, marine energy has not received the same amount of federal support and incentives to spur research, development and deployment. Conversely, international support for marine energy technologies has eclipsed U.S. investment by nearly three to one.
Marine Energy Policy Priorities
- Increased funding for U.S. Department of Energy’s Waterpower Technology Office for technology advancement, verification and acceptance through support for research, development, testing and deployment.
- Establishment of a clear, timely, predictable and workable regulatory framework for siting and permitting of early stage and pilot demonstration marine renewable projects.
- Implementation of a stable and predictable incentive regime structure that facilitates rapid advancement of technology deployment.
- Continued funding for university-based marine energy technology research, development and testing centers which support private sector efforts.
- Federal agency coordination and educating officials on lessons learned from here and abroad in marine energy technology development and deployment, including standards and certifications that will provide confidence to customers and financial markets.
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Energy Department Marine Energy Resources
The Open Energy Information website allows readers to read and contribute to its collection, including critical public datasets and reports, maps and visualization tools, links to organizations working to advance the water power industries, and more.
In OpenEI, the Marine and Hydrokinetic Technology Database provides information on marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy projects, both in the United States and around the world. The Hydrodynamic Testing Facilities Database provides data on a range of test capabilities and services available at commercial, academic, and government facilities and offshore berths within the United States.
OpenEI also hosts information on MHK LCOE Reporting Guidance. To normalize competing claims of LCOE, DOE has developed—for its own use—a standardized cost and performance data reporting process to facilitate uniform calculation of LCOE from MHK device developers. This standardization framework is only the first version in what is anticipated to be an iterative process that involves industry and the broader DOE stakeholder community.
The U.S. Department of Energy partnered with the International Energy Agency’s Ocean Energy Systems initiative to create Tethys, a database and knowledge management system that provides access to information and research about the potential environmental effects of offshore wind and marine and hydrokinetic development.
Tethys also hosts data from Annex IV, an international collaboration to gather information on MHK environmental research worldwide.
Marine and Hydrokinetic Databases and Systems
The Marine and Hydrokinetic Databases and Systems fact sheet summarizes DOE-supported online information resources, including OpenEI, the MHK Data Repository, the MHK Atlas, and Tethys. These information resources are designed to provide the public access to information pertaining to MHK technologies, projects, and research.
Marine Energy Test Centers
Hawaii National Marine Renewable Energy Center – Wave Energy Test Site (WETS)
Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC)
PMEC encompasses a range of test facilities that are available to the marine energy industry, including scaled laboratory testing facilities for wave and current converters and intermediate and full-scale open water wave converter testing facilities. For more information, please visit: https://www.pmec.us/testing/
Wallace Energy Systems and Renewable Facility
Located at OSU, WESRF provides research, testing and consulting services related to machines and drives, power electronics, hybrid electric vehicles, power systems and renewables.
O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory
The O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory provides modeling and world-class testing facilities for small-scale wave energy converter (WEC) prototypes in Corvallis, Oregon campus. It is the largest nearshore experimental facility at an academic institution in the U.S.
Harris Hydraulics Laboratory
Located at UW, the Harris Hydraulic Lab is a fully equipped laboratory for both teaching and research in environmental fluid mechanics, featuring multiple recirculating flumes.
Tanana River Site
Located at UAF, the Tanana River Hydrokinetic Test Site is used to test hydrokinetic power generating devices, related technologies, and to characterize the river environment under realistic Alaska river conditions.
Power Systems Integration Lab
Located at UW, the Power Systems Integration Lab tests hardware and software components within an integrated grid system at the scale of an Alaskan village power system.
In 2012, with OWET assistance, PMEC (formerly NNMREC) was awarded $4 million by the U.S. Department of Energy to begin work on PacWave, a grid-connected test facility for utility-scale ocean energy converters.
PacWave will demonstrate the viability of marine energy off the very energetic northwest coast of the U.S. by providing a fully functional ocean energy test facility for prototype and commercial scale devices (TRL 5-9). PacWave will offer four test berths connected to the regional grid, and will be capable of testing individual devices up to one megawatt in size. Learn about PacWave’s multiple advantages at www.pacwaveenergy.org.
Competitive Industry-Led Research and Development
The MEC strongly supports ongoing Federal investments for industry-led technology design advancement and pre-commercial construction and testing of high-potential systems and components. Program elements should include:
- Survey industry and communicate planned funding opportunities in annual Budget Requests;
- Consider pilot funding program using broad-agency announcements rather than specific funding opportunity announcements;
- Close coordination with the U.S. Navy on funding opportunities to support device testing activities at the Wave Energy Test Site and other facilities;
- Development of international standards, conformity-assessment procedures and a device verification program with significant U.S. participation;
- Refined resource assessments; and
- Ongoing funding for research projects in support of industry at the National Marine Renewable Energy Centers.
Addressing Regulatory Barriers
The MEC requests assistance to ensure cost-effective research, development and testing activities to support commercialization of marine energy systems in traditional grid markets and non-traditional emerging markets where marine energy is uniquely well suited to drive economic growth, supported by the following actions:
- DOE-led interagency/inter-jurisdictional efforts to reduce the complexity and costs of securing permits for marine energy testing activities;
- Support initiatives that promote domestic coordination and communication, international partnerships and knowledge transfer;
- Retirement of potential environmental risks; and,
- Support state/regional level collaborative efforts to collect and provide data related to marine energy.
Emerging Market Opportunities for Off-Grid Power
DOE, in coordination with the U.S. Navy and other federal agencies, should expand the commercial value of power generated from marine energy devices beyond grid-connected electricity. With federal support, research, development and testing focused on early-adopter markets, such as desalination, oil and gas production, or underwater data centers, can lead to transformative reductions in LCOE and increased system performance. Commercialization in early-adopter, distributed applications is not the ultimate objective of most developers, nor can it be the ultimate objective of federal support. However, such applications can be a stepping-stone to reducing LCOE and produce near-term revenue for developers and their investors while providing more cost effective power for remote communities and economic development opportunities for rural areas. Marine energy adoption in distributed markets will provide important opportunities for learning and advance technology towards viable utility-scale deployment in grid-connected markets. Growth in these markets also provides industry with practical experience and the insight to recognize the potential impact of transformative technologies.
Leverage International Experience and Cooperation
DOE should accelerate commercial pathways for marine energy technology growth by developing and implementing agreements with non-U.S. funding entities to support technology development, demonstration and deployment activities of mutual interest. Existing cooperative vehicles, including memorandums of understanding, should be strengthened to allow funding and other support of value to be exchanged and leveraged. Cooperative instruments should also be developed to encourage the participation of non-U.S. research centers and their end-users to participate in U.S. funding opportunities and the participation of U.S. research centers and end-users in non-U.S. funding opportunities.
Program Planning and Industry Engagement
The MEC requests to continue working closely with DOE to develop an achievable multi-year technology research, development, and testing roadmap for the industry. The roadmap should discuss:
- a reasonable “vision” or “technical scenario” for marine energy in the U.S., including costs and benefits;
- sufficient annual budget requests for the WPTO to reach the vision/technical scenario;
- regular industry surveys of priorities and gaps in R&D that DOE should support;
- existing and needed U.S. land and water-based testing facility development;
- supply chain needs; and,
- new measures of success beyond LCOE (MWs installed by 2020/2030; numbers of states with installed capacity; number of devices tested; etc.).