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Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy Research & Development

The Water Power Program's marine and hydrokinetic research and development (R&D) efforts focus on advancing technologies that capture energy from the nation's oceans and rivers. Unlike hydropower, marine and hydrokinetics represent an emerging industry with hundreds of potentially viable technologies. The program is therefore leading efforts to prove functionality; evaluate technical and economic viability; and generate cost, performance, and reliability data for a variety of devices.

Marine and hydrokinetic energy technologies convert the energy of waves, tides, and river and ocean currents into electricity. The Department of Energy's "Marine and Hydrokinetic 101" video explains how these technologies work and highlights some of the Water Power Program's efforts in R&D in this area.

The program's efforts fall under three categories: technology development; market acceleration and deployment; and resource assessment and characterization.

Technology Development 

The Water Power Program's technology development activities center on reducing the technical barriers to marine and hydrokinetic device development, improving device reliability and performance, and understanding and evaluating various technology types. Specific activities include the following:

  • Supporting the design, development, testing, and deployment of marine and hydrokinetic devices and components in both laboratory and open-water settings
  • Developing tools and models that support the design, development, and optimization of marine and hydrokinetic devices
  • Evaluating and assessing information on the cost and performance of marine and hydrokinetic device designs.

Learn more by visiting the program's Marine and Hydrokinetic Technology Development page.

Market Acceleration and Deployment 

The Water Power Program works to reduce the time and costs associated with siting water power projects; to better quantify the potential magnitude, costs, and benefits of water power generation; and to identify and address other barriers to deployment. Specific activities include the following:

  • Funding studies that examine the potential effects of marine and hydrokinetic technologies on specific marine species and their ecosystems
  • Assessing the total amount of recoverable energy that can be obtained from the nation's waves, tides, ocean currents, undammed rivers and streams, and ocean thermal gradients
  • Conducting economic analyses to quantify the benefits of the widespread deployment of effective and cost-competitive marine and hydrokinetic systems.  

Learn more by visiting the program's Marine and Hydrokinetic Market Acceleration and Deployment page.

Resource Assessment and Characterization 

The Water Power Program has released reports and maps that assess the resource potential of the nation's waves, tidal, ocean, and river currents, and ocean thermal gradients. Learn more about the resource assessment and characterization of the nation's marine and hydrokinetic resources.