Country Reports

Marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) technologies capture the energy of waves and currents (e.g., tides, ocean currents, or in-stream river flows). With more than 50% of the U.S. population living within 50 miles of U.S. coastlines, MHK technologies hold significant potential to supply renewable electricity to these consumers, particularly in areas with high costs of electricity. U.S. MHK resource assessments identify a technical resource potential of up to 1,250-1,850 terawatt-hours (TWh) of generation per year.

For context, approximately 90,000 homes can be powered by one TWh of electricity generation each year. A cost-effective MHK industry could provide a substantial amount of electricity for the United States due in large part to its unique advantages as a source of energy, such as its vast resource potential, its close proximity to major coastal load centers, and its predictability.



The mission of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Water Power Program is to research, test, evaluate, develoP and demonstrate innovative technologies capable of generating renewable, environmentally responsible and costeffective electricity from water resources. As laid out in the 2015 Quadrennial Technology Review, the strategy has parallel approaches to address two complementary opportunities: (1) near-term deployment in early-adopter markets; and (2) long-term deployment in large, utility-scale markets. The Program’s investments along these two parallel approaches fall in the following four major focus areas:

  1. Technology Advancement and Demonstration: Provide the support and incentive to incubate revolutionary concepts. Prove technical credibility; catalyse device design evolution; and optimize performance through, for example, application of optimized controls, Power Take-Off, and structure components to double annual energy production and increase availability.
  2. Testing Infrastructure and Instrumentation Development: Strengthen MHK device quality and reliability, provide affordable access to facilities for testing, and develop robust instrumentation and sensors.
  3. Resource Assessment and Characterization: Classify the U.S. MHK resource, disseminate resource data to stakeholders, and develop numerical modelling tools to predict loading conditions. Quantify and classify environmental conditions to reduce siting risk.
  4. Market Acceleration and Deployment: Research environmental risk mitigation, boost investor confidence, and reduce regulatory barriers through examination of effects on aquatic organisms (blade strike, collision, entanglement, noise, electromagnetic fields, species behaviour) and effects on physical systems (hydrodynamic and sediment transport dynamic modelling for both wave and current) are needed.

To facilitate this work, the Water Power Program supports a strong research, development and demonstration (RD&D) project portfolio. The Program also leverages capabilities at DOE national laboratories to spur innovation in promising research areas, identifies cost reduction pathways, and has built coordinated partnerships with other government agencies that are breaking new ground for the industry.


Several key pieces of U.S. federal legislation that would help to advance the MHK industry are currently under consideration:

  • The Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Act of 2013 (S. 1419) was introduced in August 2013 and has been recommended by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for full consideration by the Senate. Sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden and cosponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski and Angus King, this bill would promote research, development, and demonstration of MHK renewable energy technologies.
  • The Renewable Electricity Standard Act of 2013 (S. 1595) and the American Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act (S. 1627), both pending in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, would each create a renewable electricity standard that would apply to all renewable energy sources.
  • The Climate Protection Act of 2013 (S. 332) would enable the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a ‘Sustainable Technologies Finance Program’ that would alleviate cost burdens for ocean, tidal, or hydropower energy projects through loans, credit instruments, and loan guarantees. This bill is sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders and is under consideration by the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
  • The Prioritizing Energy Efficient Renewables Act of 2013 (H.R. 2539) would permanently extend the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit for wind, geothermal, hydro, and marine power. It would also eliminate the tax credit for intangible drilling costs, the domestic manufacturing tax credit for oil and gas, as well as the percentage depletion credit for oil and gas wells. Sponsored by Representative Jan Schakowsky and 22 other cosponsors, this bill is currently under consideration by the House Committee on Ways and Means.
  • The Advancing Offshore Wind Production Act (H.R. 1398), sponsored by Representative Rob Wittman, would set a 30-day timeline for the Secretary of the Interior to act on permits for all weather testing and monitoring projects in the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. This bill includes a provision that would apply this timeline to tidal and ocean current energy projects. This bill has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.


The MHK incentives offered in the United States are the Federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) and the Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC). The PTC, which provides a 1.1 cents per kilowatt- hour (kWh) tax credit for MHK technologies, has recently been extended through 2016 for projects that are at least 150 kW in nameplate capacity. The ITC allows tidal energy projects to opt for a tax credit equal to 10% of capital expenditures in lieu of the PTC. There is no Investment Tax Credit for MHK technologies other than tidal.

At the state level, MHK technologies are an eligible energy resource under 20 states’ renewable portfolio
standards and voluntary renewable energy goals. MHK technologies also benefit from state funding opportunities, such as the Alaska Energy Authority’s Emerging Technology Fund and Renewable Energy Fund and the Oregon Wave Energy Trust.

Because MHK energy is an early stage market and there are currently limited incentives for investment, the Water Power Program has a clear role in expediting the development and deployment of innovative MHK technologies. The Program focuses on investing in technologies with a credible potential for lowering the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) below the local hurdle price at which MHK can compete with other regional generation sources. In the near term, the focus is on early-adopter high-hurdle rate markets and in the longerterm the focus is on competitiveness at utility scale in regional markets. The Program makes investments that mitigate risks, support key technology innovations, and assist the private sector in creating a robust U.S. MHK industry by providing funding and technical assistance.

The completion of national assessments of U.S. wave, tidal, ocean current, river in-stream, and ocean
thermal energy resources has resulted in an emphasis in technology development efforts of the abundant national wave energy resource.

The Water Power Program’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 annual budget for MHK RD&D was maintained at $41.3 million from FY 2014. Most of the funding in FY 2015 was directed toward Focus Area 1: Technology Advancement and Demonstration.

Through competitive funding solicitations, or Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs), the Water Power Program identifies and funds qualified projects within specific topic areas and subtopics that support program objectives, depending on available funds. In evaluating all proposals for new energy developments or new adaptations of existing technology, the Program rigorously assesses whether individual applications clearly demonstrate that the proposed advances can reasonably lead to a reduction in the total cost of energy produced when compared to other technologies.

In FY 2015, the Water Power Program allocated $17.9 million of the $41.3 million to new FOAs for MHK RD&D projects that aim to address key technical and market barriers to deployment in the United States. Together, these projects will increase the power production and reliability of MHK devices and help gather valuable data on how deployed devices interact with the surrounding environment. The Program made the following awards to a variety of recipient types, including private industry and universities:

  • MHK System Performance Advancement II: $7.4 million to spur innovation of next-generation water power component technologies designed for manufacturability and built specifically for MHK systems.
  • Durability and Survivability: $10.5 million to support the design and operation of innovative MHK systems through survivability and reliability-related improvements.

MHK System Performance Advancement: In August 2015, four entities were selected to receive a total of $7.4 million to address technical challenges in three areas: advanced controls, crosscutting Power Take-Off. Re Vision Consulting, LLC, will develop an optimal control system that predicts ocean conditions and adjusts device settings accordingly to optimize power production for three different wave energy converter (WEC) devices. Virginia Tech will develop and test a novel mechanical solution for converting from alternating current to direct current power by transforming the back-and-forth wave movement into a single-directional movement to more efficiently capture wave energy. Dehlsen Associates, LLC, will develop a linear generator capable of supplying a WEC device with power to implement advanced controls. Pennsylvania State University will develop a low-cost, single-piece, three-blade composite turbine with integrated "health management" technology that uses diagnostic and predictive technologies to evaluate the health of mechanical and electrical systems during operation.

Durability and Survivability: In December 2015, six organizations were selected to receive a total of $10.5 million to improve the survivability characteristics and reduce uncertainty regarding installation, operations, and maintenance of MHK systems operating in potentially harsh marine conditions, thus extending their lifespans and ultimately leading to a reduction in the cost of MHK-derived energy. Dehlsen Associates, LLC, is developing a WEC comprised of multiple pods that use common components to achieve economies of scale and improve its survivability characteristics, thus significantly reducing the cost of energy derived from the WEC. M3 Wave LLC will develop modelling tools to explore ways to minimize effects of sediment transport, such as water erosion, displacement, and tilting of their WEC that sits on the ocean floor and captures energy from the pressure waves beneath ocean waves. Oscilla Power, Inc. is developing a WEC consisting of a surface float that is tethered to a base suspended in the water, which aims to optimize storm-survival configurations, thus decreasing the loads the device experiences during extreme conditions and lowering the resulting cost of energy. Columbia Power Technologies, Inc. will develop and deploy a streamlined, cost-effective installation and recovery process that includes design updates and process improvements related to IO&M. Igiugig Village Council will work with Ocean Renewable Power Company to develop a river turbine system that will demonstrate IO&M design improvements to simplify maintenance and make system components more durable during operations in southwestern Alaska. Verdant Power, Inc. will complete their TriFrame foundation, which optimizes turbine spacing and support structures to allow for cost-effective IO&M.

Under DOE Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program, DOE funded four Phase I projects in 2015 at $150,000 each to help small businesses develop prognostic and health monitoring systems for MHK devices. The period of performance for these projects is nine months, after which the projects will be eligible to compete for up to $1 million in Phase II funding. Commercial-scale MHK energy converters are large, often highly complex devices operating in a harsh marine environment, and servicing these devices at sea is a difficult and costly operation. Advanced prognostic and health monitoring systems help to anticipate and identify relevant changes to device health, minimize the unscheduled maintenance and failure frequency, and decrease LCOE through reduced maintenance costs and increased device availability.

In addition to the Water Power Program’s work, the National Ocean Council continues to promote regional ocean planning efforts in the United States, notably with a group of regional planning bodies that coordinate ocean activities and develop marine spatial plans for their regions. Similarly, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management within the U.S. Department of the Interior has established a series of state task forces to lead planning efforts for marine renewable energy in a number of states with MHK resources, including Oregon and Hawaii.


While significant progress has been made to expedite the permitting process for MHK technologies in the United States, especially for pilot scale and research projects, the amount of time, finances, and other resources required to navigate the permitting process remains a challenge for many MHK projects. To help ensure that the regulatory community has access to the most recent, amalgamated information regarding MHK systems and environmental research, the Water Power Program sponsored a MHK regulator training workshop in May 2015.

Testing infrastructure and instrumentation development represents one of the four major focus areas for the Water Power Program. Test facilities are intended to offer a wide range of testing services that address both technical and nontechnical barriers of MHK systems. Prototype testing is essential to advance existing wave technologies, validating performance against analytic models, and demonstrating compliance with applicable design standards. Testing mitigates the technical and financial risk of developing and deploying massproduced wave energy devices, plants, technologies, and related products. By spearheading the development of a testing infrastructure, the Program ensures that many more prototypes from a diverse set of technology developers can be tested than if each technology developer had to carry the cost of developing, permitting and installing their own test facility. As a result, superior technologies that could have failed due to insufficient funds have a chance to succeed.

Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site (WETS): The U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command operates an openocean wave energy test site facility located at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. The existing facility consists of infrastructure to support offshore testing of a point absorber or oscillating water column device with up to a three-point mooring configuration. The Navy previously operated a grid-connected test berth at a depth of 30 meters, however in 2015, construction was completed for two additional grid-connected test berths at the at 60-meter and 80-meter depths for 100 kW to 1 MW WECs.

National Marine Renewable Energy Centers (NMRECs): In 2015, the Water Power Program continued to support the NMRECs, which provide domestic expertise in MHK device testing and the evaluation of environmental performance data, ultimately providing the necessary level of confidence to enable the private financing of commercial generation plants.

Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC) – Wave and RiverTest Facility: Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC) is the marine energy converter testing facilities arm of the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC). Just as the European Marine Energy Center has a variety of sites based on scale and technology, PMEC will encompass the range of test facilities available to the marine energy industry. For wave energy testing, PMEC supports two operational test sites: the North Energy Test Site (NETS) off the coast of Newport, Oregon and Lake Washington in Seattle, Washington. NETS has a mobile Ocean Sentinel test buoy that facilitates open-ocean, stand-alone testing of WEC devices with average power outputs up to 100 kW. The Lake Washington site is operated by the University of Washington in Seattle, and tested Oscilla Power’s wave energy technology in 2013. In 2014, NNMREC was joined by University of Alaska Fairbanks, and PMEC now includes the Tanana River Hydrokinetic Test Site in Alaska. Oceana Energy Company tested their turbine technology at the Tanana River site in 2014.

Pacific Marine Energy Center - South Energy Test Site (PMEC-SETS) and the California Wave Energy Test Center (CalWave) – Wave and Tidal Test Facilities under development: In 2015, with $1.5 million in additional funding from the Water Power Program, NNMREC and California Polytechnic State University continued developing preliminary designs and cost estimates for full scale, open-ocean, grid-connected wave energy test facilities, PMEC-SETS and CalWave. The Program will use the results of these projects for planning and budgeting of a domestic wave energy test facility. PMEC-SETS is located off the coast of Oregon, and has submitted preliminary permitting documents. Following construction, PMEC-SETS would serve as the utility-scale, grid-connected wave energy test facility for evaluating WEC device performance, environmental interactions, and survivability. CalWave has investigated and characterized several potential locations for a wave energy site offshore of Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California. Researchers will continue preliminary design and cost estimates for a selected location and begin the permitting process in 2016.

Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC) – Ocean Current Test Facility: SNMREC is working to advance research in open-ocean current systems by building the capability, infrastructure, and strategic partnerships necessary to support technology developers on the path to commercialization. In 2014, SNMREC signed a five-year lease agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and expects to test small scale commercial ocean current turbines during 2016. During 2015, SNMREC performed sea floor surveys for the offshore test berth lease and installed coastal radar to better characterize the Gulf Stream for commercial power production.

Hawaii National Marine Renewable Energy Center (HINMREC) – Wave and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) Test Facility: HINMREC’s mission is to facilitate the development and commercialization of WEC devices and to assist the private sector with moving ocean thermal energy conversion systems beyond proof-of-concept to pre-commercialization. HINMREC will support the Navy in testing WEC devices at the Navy’s two new test berths at WETS at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. HINMREC will assess the power performance of WEC devices, including but not limited to Ocean Energy USA’s and Northwest Energy Innovations’ FOA R&D projects. HINMREC will also determine acoustic and electromagnetic field outputs at the WETS, which will contribute to the environmental impact assessment of WEC devices and other MHK technologies.




In addition to NMRECs, DOE’s national laboratories possess unique instruments and facilities and address large scale, complex R&D challenges with an approach that emphasizes translating basic science to innovation. The Water Power Program partners with several of these important R&D institutions to support R&D in MHK technologies.

Sandia National Laboratories (SNL): Through a partnership with several national laboratories and academic institutions, SNL is leading efforts in technology development, market acceleration, and reference model developments. SNL contributes to MHK technology in the following areas:

  • Advanced non-linear controls, code development, array optimization, and extreme events simulation
  • Designs and tests of tidal turbines and development requirements for deep tank testing
  • Advanced materials development, such as novel coatings and composites
  • Wave resource assessment, environmental characterization, and classification
  • Measurement and modelling of tidal and current flows
  • Wave and tidal energy modelling to predict environmental effects of energy removal and inform optimal device spacing
  • Modelling tools for MHK environmental impacts, such as mammal strike impact and acoustic generation and propagation

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL): NREL’s research supports the Water Power Program’s efforts to research, test, evaluate, develop, and demonstrate deployment of innovative water power technologies. NREL supports development of market-relevant scientific and technical knowledge, research and testing, and addressing environmental impacts. Specifically, NREL supports the Program through:

  • Computational modelling and analysis of wave and tidal devices in operational and extreme conditions
  • Industry project support and needs assessment
  • Instrumentation system development testing
  • Laboratory, electrical, grid, and mechanical testing
  • Standards development and certification support
  • Wave and current resource assessment and characterization
  • Stakeholder training, education, and outreach

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL): PNNL supports the Water Power Program through research; engineering; information aggregation and dissemination; resource assessment, characterization, and forecasting; and market analysis, planning and coordination to overcome barriers for water power. PNNL operates the only facility dedicated to coastal sciences in the national laboratory system; its unique Marine Sciences Laboratory is located on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. PNNL’s specific efforts include:

  • MHK environmental impacts research, international collaboration, and information sharing
  • Tidal and current model development and validation
  • MHK technology advancement through advanced materials and manufacturing reliability Wave resource assessment and characterization
  • Monitoring tools, mitigation technologies, and methodologies
  • Education outreach and information sharing 

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL): ORNL is involved in a number of R&D activities supporting the Water Power Program’s mission. These activities and products help all stakeholders understand and resolve the environmental effects of MHK technologies and help developers advance MHK technologies to commercialization. ORNL scientists are currently reporting on laboratory and field experiments that evaluated the effects of noise and electromagnetic fields on marine organisms, and are conducting hydroacoustic analysis of fish interactions with turbines.



Wave Energy Prize: With $6.5 million awarded to Ricardo, Inc. as the competition’s administrator, the DOE-funded Wave Energy Prize had 92 eligible teams registered to compete for a prize purse totalling more than $2 million. The judging panel narrowed the 92 registered teams down and the 20 qualified teams were announced on 14 August 2015. Seventeen of these 20 qualified teams currently remain, and teams are testing 1/50 scale WECs over winter 2015/2016 for their potential to achieve DOE’s goal of doubling the state-of-the-art energy captured from ocean waves per unit structural cost. The testing will occur at five universities across the country: the University of Michigan, University of Maine, University of Iowa, Oregon State University, and Stevens Institute of Technology.

NREL and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) are providing technical expertise in preparing testing plans, numerical modelling templates, and methodology for evaluating against performance metrics. On 1 March 2016, up to 10 finalists will be selected to test their 1/20scale model WECs in the nation's most advanced wave-making facility-the Naval Surface Warfare Center's Manoeuvring and Seakeeping Basin at Carderock, Maryland.

Instrumentation Database and Community of Practice: Sharing information on MHK instrumentation and lessons learned from laboratory testing and field deployments will help the emerging MHK community achieve greater success in technology development. DOE has developed a comprehensive and open instrumentation database and community of practice as a set of online tools for the international MHK community to contribute and draw information.

This database will help users identify and select instruments and sensors that best satisfy measurement needs based on testing objectives (e.g. power performance certificati on and numerical model validation) and associated measurement requirements. The database is also intended to allow users to document the performance of instruments in the field and lessons learned so that their experience can directly benefit the online MHK community. Users are also able to record instrument configurations and best practices in a “community of practice.” The community of practice is a forum for developers, users, and stakeholders to engage in constructive dialog and exchange ideas, as well as lessons learned across a broad range of testing and instrumentation topics. Through this effort, limitations in measurement capabilities and functionality can be more easily identified and will help the community understand gaps in measurement technology.

In 2015, DOE developed the framework for the MHK instrumentation and sensor database and the community of practice and launched the database on a public website. The database has been initially seeded with a representative set of instruments and sensors used for resource assessment.

Advanced Design Tools: In 2015, the DOE Water Power Program and national laboratories performed research on wave and current energy devices with the objectives of improving performance, reliability, and survivability, while lowering the cost of energy. NREL and SNL worked on the following projects in 2015 to provide open-source simulation tools, develop extreme condition design methodologies, and advance control strategies:

  • The Wave Energy Converter Simulator project developed and released an open-source design and analysis code (WEC-Sim) and performed experimental wave tank tests to develop validation data sets. Code development and experiments are continuing in 2016 and data sets will be made publically available.
  • NREL and SNL developed a methodology for modelling WECs in extreme conditions that combines mid- and highfidelity simulation methods to efficiently simulate and analyse the performance of WECs in extreme and survivability conditions.
  • SNL and NREL worked to advance WEC control strategies through two projects.
  • SNL prepared for a comprehensive set of wave tank tests that will characterize the performance of several advanced control strategies using a point absorber WEC design.
  • NREL explored the feasibility of using advanced control strategies in conjunction with “active geometry” 

WECs that have the ability to change their geometry with changing wave conditions. In 2016, SNL and NREL will continue to explore advanced control strategies that have the potential to significantly improve the performance of wave energy devices.

Resource Assessment and Characterization Meeting: In November 2015, the DOE Water Power Program hosted a meeting with key stakeholders in Washington, D.C., to better integrate private industry and universities with the MHK resource assessment and characterization activities at DOE and its national laboratories. The main purpose of the meeting was to provide an in-person opportunity to meet and hear directly from industry and academia stakeholders.

The feedback received through this open dialogue will help guide future MHK resource assessment and characterization work at DOE. Information about DOE’s past and current MHK resource assessment and characterization portfolio was shared, along with plans for future research. After hosting this open forum, industry and academia stakeholders expressed their desire for regular, future engagement to discuss DOE’s MHK resource assessment and characterization portfolio with the Water Power Program. Moving forward, a resource assessment and characterization subcommittee within the Marine Energy Council (MEC) will have regular meetings with DOE to provide guidance on current work and future plans for the DOE MHK resource assessment and characterization portfolio. MEC was formed by the National Hydropower Association to unite the marine energy community in order to better provide input on how to best leverage Water Power Program research and development investments to further the marine energy sector. Stakeholders also encouraged DOE to engage with the International Electrotechnical Commission Technical Committee 114 (IEC TC114) for Marine Energy for feedback on current and future MHK resource assessment and characterization work.

LCOE Modelling: To normalize competing claims of LCOE, the Water Power Program and national laboratory partners have developed, for the Program’s own use, a standardized cost and performance data reporting process to facilitate uniform calculation of LCOE from MHK device developers. This standardization framework is a working version in what is anticipated to be an iterative process that involves industry and the broader Water Power Program stakeholder community.

In 2015 the Water Power Program and industry stakeholders worked together to define cost reduction and technology development pathways aimed to further develop MHK technologies. These efforts will continue to be refined as technology is developed and insight is gained across the Program.

The LCOE reporting process references a generalized Cost Breakdown Structure (CBS) for MHK projects that is being developed by the Water Power Program and NREL. This CBS is a hierarchical structure designed to facilitate the collection and organization of lifecycle costs of any type of MHK project, including WECs and current energy converters. At a high level, the categories in the CBS will be applicable to all projects; at a detailed level, however, the CBS includes many cost categories that pertain to one project but not others.

Reliability Framework: To help reduce the risks of industry failures and advance the development of current and new technologies at a lower cost and faster pace, the Water Power Program and NREL have developed an MHK technology reliability and survivability risk assessment framework. This framework provides a risk management methodology to identify and reduce risks during all stages of technology development, particularly prior to demonstration activities. The framework was released in September 2015.

MHK Data Repository (MHKDR): Working with NREL, the Water Power Program launched the MHKDR website on 31 March 2015. This repository houses all data collected using funds from the Water Power Program, serving as a data-sharing platform to help store and disseminate open-source data relevant to the design and development of marine energy technologies.

Transparency and open data are extremely important to accelerate technology development in order to avoid funding the same technology evolution by several different companies, and also to attract new players from related offshore and engineering sectors. The MHKDR provides an easy method for uploading data in a secure environment in order to help with the reporting requirements of national labs and industry awardees, as well as to make this information easily searchable and of value to the public. Awardees who received U.S. public funding through financial assistance mechanisms are able to keep their data proprietary for a period of up to five years, after which it is to be made available to the public. In 2015, eight content models were developed to help structure the data submitted to the MHKDR, and a training session and live demonstration were posted.

NNMREC’s Advanced Laboratory and Field Arrays Project (ALFA): NNMREC is a multi-institution entity with a diverse funding base that focuses on R&D for marine renewables. The ALFA project conducted by NNMREC works to reduce the LCOE of MHK energy by leveraging research, development, and testing capabilities at Oregon State University, University of Washington, and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. ALFA will accelerate the development of next-generation arrays of WEC and tidal energy conversion devices through a suite of field-focused R&D activities spanning a three-year performance period. These tasks include: 

  • Debris modelling, detection, and mitigation
  • Autonomous monitoring and intervention
  • Resource assessment and characterization for extreme conditions
  • Robust models for design of offshore anchoring and mooring systems
  • Performance enhancement for marine energy converter arrays
  • Sampling technique evaluations for MHK biological monitoring 

Environmental R&D: In 2015, five projects got underway to improve existing or develop new environmental monitoring technologies, which will help address the technological limitations associated with environmental monitoring of MHK devices. These projects focus on the detection and classification of marine animals in the vicinity of MHK devices, measurement of noise produced by devices, automation of optical data processing, and the development of integrated instrumentation packages to monitor MHK devices more efficiently. The Water Power Program had awarded $2.75 million in 2014 to support these projects.

Also in 2015, nine projects that focused on advancing the understanding of potential environmental effects from the deployment and operation of MHK devices made excellent progress, and many are in the process of finishing up. The projects include researching device-generated noise and its subsequent effects on marine megafauna, understanding interactions between fish and tidal turbines, developing and using models to predict strike occurrence, and assessing the potential effects that electromagnetic fields may have on marine species. The Water Power Program awarded $2.4 million in 2013 to support these projects.



Northwest Energy Innovations: With support from DOE and the U.S. Navy, a prototype wave energy device advanced successfully from initial concept to grid-connected, open-sea pilot testing in June 2015. The device, called Azura, was launched and installed in a 30-meter test berth at the Navy’s WETS in Kaneohe Bay, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. NWEI designed the Azura in a unique way to extract power from both the vertical and horizontal motions of waves to maximize energy capture. This pilot testing is now giving U.S. researchers the opportunity to monitor and evaluate the performance of the third-party-verified and grid-connected device in the open-ocean for the duration of one year. The primary objectives of this test are to use the data collected to optimize energy capture, and to validate and refine existing cost and performance models.

Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC):
In July 2015, ORPC deployed its RivGen® turbine in the Kvichak River, located at the Igiugig village in Alaska.

The RivGen® Power System demonstration project provided power to Igiugig. Connecting the small community to the grid and decreasing the use of high-cost diesel fuel for electric power generation helps lower electricity costs for consumers since all fuel must either be barged or flown in to the rural village, and that cost is passed on to rate payers.

This project was successfully decommissioned after two months of operation, and numerical models and deployment data are being analysed and validated to evaluate the improvements from implementing advanced control systems.

ORPC’s advanced control systems are being developed in collaboration with the University of Washington, Maine Technology Institute, and NREL with support from the DOE Water Power Program.




Northwest Energy Innovations (NWEI): NWEI’s Azura™
is a multimode, “point absorber” wave energy device that extracts power from both the heave and surge motions of waves to maximize energy capture. NWEI has previously tested their technology in Oregon in 2012 and the half scale device is currently being tested at the 30m berth at WETS.

With funding from the DOE Water Power Program, NWEI will design, fabricate, and test a full scale Azura™ wave energy device to reduce the LCOE and demonstrate commercial viability at a deep water berth at U.S. Navy’s WETS in Hawaii.

The proposed testing will allow NWEI and its team to determine the energy capture matrix of a full scale device, resulting in a more accurate assessment of LCOE.





Ocean Energy (OE) USA:
The OE Buoy, based on the oscillating water column principle, converts wave energy into useful mechanical energy using the principle that the air contained in the plenum chamber is pumped through an air turbine system by the wave action.

This project will leverage lessons learned from three years of extensive scale model testing in Galway Bay, Ireland that identified design opportunities to lower the cost of electricity and make these design improvements to the OE Buoy technology for a full scale deployment at WETS. The open water demonstration of the buoy will gather baseline performance data, gain operational experience, and identify further cost reduction opportunities for oscillating water column devices. Comprehensive LCOE validation data will also be generated during deployment in 2017.


Resolute Marine Energy:
The Water Power Program is supporting Resolute Marine Energy to develop an intelligent feedback control algorithm for their next-generation device, SurgeWECTM. The control system will be validated in Resolute’s development centre on a full scale SurgeWECTM and, upon completion, will be integrated into Resolute’s project planned for deployment off the coast of Camp Rilea, Oregon.


Fred Olsen:
Fred Olsen’s BOLT Lifesaver WEC device will be deployed at WETS early next year with the support of U.S. Navy funding. The BOLT Lifesaver in its current configuration features three independently operating Power Take-Off units, an all-electric power conversion system, and a patented drivetrain.

Its hull design provides buoyancy and water displacement and has a low vertical profile, which reduces the impact of sea forces during more aggressive sea states.

BOLT Lifesaver has on-board energy storage that enables autonomous and continuous operation through varying sea states.




Columbia Power Technologies:
Columbia Power Technologies will conduct an open water demonstration of a utility scale StingRAY at WETS in 2016 or 2017.

With funding from the Water Power Program, the StingRAY has innovated a direct-drive permanent magnet generator for Power Take-Off which reduces the number of moving parts, compared to gearboxes, integrated with a composite hull structure for the generator’s “nacelle.” The composite structure helps to increase the strength and longevity of the device.

The deployment at WETS, supported by the U.S. Navy, will include StingRAY utility scale design and certificati on, performance and efficiency validation, and design and testing of the structural components.




In 2015, the Marine Energy Council (the U.S. industry association for MHK) and DOE’s Water Power Program will once again hold the International Marine Energy Conference and the Marine Energy Technology Symposium. These events are being held this year at the Capitol Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., on 25-27April 2016 in conjunction with the National Hydropower Association (NHA) Annual Conference. Holding these three events together provides the invaluable opportunity for public and private industry stakeholders and the R&D community to come together to advance the interests of the U.S. marine energy industry. More information on all three events can be found on the NHA annual conference website.

Numerous experts from National Labs, industry, and academia participate in IEC TC 114, both administratively and on project teams to support the development process and ensure that U.S. input is considered as international standards for the MHK industry are developed. The development of standards will facilitate more rapid and reliable deployment of MHK devices. In 2015, the U.S. Technical Advisory Group staffed 20 IEC-related meetings around the globe and contributed to the publication of three technical specifications covering mooring systems, wave energy resource assessment and characterization, and tidal energy resource assessment and characterization. Publishing these as specifications is the first step toward these guidelines becoming published as international standards to be used by the MHK industry and certifying bodies, which will help secure investments in marine energy projects.



Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) was included as a component of the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan which was released in 2013.

The implementation plan supports MSP at a regional level. The United States and its territories were divided into nine Regional Planning Bodies (RPBs). All RPBs are at different stages in the planning process. The RPB for a specific region has no regulatory authority and it is still the responsibility of the federal and state agencies to regulate the use of ocean space according to established national legislation and policies.

Several states in the United States have developed and implemented marine plans of their own, all were initiated before the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan was released. Interest in developing ocean renewable energy is one driver for the formation of these state plans.

On a national level, MSP is meant to be used to inform decisions made by the individual state or federal agencies. On a state level, marine plans have also been used to help guide project siting decisions.

Pre-selected areas for ocean energy development have not been defined on a national level. State Task Forces led by the Department of Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) have identified and set aside initial areas for the development of offshore wind. A number of states have also identified selected areas for ocean energy development (e.g. Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Oregon). Areas identified through spatial planning and pre-selected processes have typically involved collaborative processes including multiple stakeholder groups.

The authorities involved in the consenting process are:

• The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) – it has jurisdiction over marine and hydrokinetic facilities in navigable waters that are connected to the grid;
• The BOEM – it has the authority to issue leases and easements for hydrokinetic projects located partially or entirely on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS);
• The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) – it issues permits for any structure places in navigable waters. It has jurisdiction over marine and hydrokinetic facilities in navigable waters that are not connected to the grid;
• The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) – it issues permits to mark all obstructions in navigable waters with the navigation aids and to ensure that projects do not interfere with established shipping lanes.

Multiple other federal agencies are consulted during the permitting process to ensure that projects comply with a number of federal environmental protection statutes. These agencies include, but are not limited to: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (specifically the National Marine Fisheries Service within NOAA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency and National Parks Service.

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy supported the development of a handbook containing information on the siting and licensing processes for marine hydrokinetic (MHK) renewable energy projects.

The sequential steps are dependent upon the location of the project and whether the project will be connected to the grid. FERC allows a prospective developers to apply for a preliminary permit but it is not required to obtain a FERC pilot or commercial license. There are 5 different scenarios in which different licenses and permits are necessary, which are the following including the best-case scenario timelines for permit:

• Scenario 1 – Non-grid connected pilot project in state waters – 12 months;
• Scenario 2 – Pilot scale grid connected project in state waters – 12 months;
• Scenario 3 – Commercial scale project in state waters – 4 years or more;
• Scenario 4 – Marine and hydrokinetic projects on the OCS: noncompetitive lease process – 3-5 years;
• Scenario 5 – Marine and hydrokinetic projects on the OCS: competitive lease process – 6-8 years.

The length of the permitting process is dependent upon the type and location of the project, especially if the project is located in a sensitive area. In practice, all MHK permitting in the U.S. have exceeded these timeframes and very few projects have undergone the entire permitting process.

There is no single agency that is responsible for the entire ocean energy consenting process (“one stop shop” facility or entity). There are two agencies with overarching authority over licensing and leasing activities in the U.S., the FERC and the BOEM.

The lead agency is dependent upon the location of the project and whether the project will be connected to the grid. Multiple state agencies are also involved in the consenting process. For all projects located on the OCS (generally 3 nautical miles from shore to the exclusive economic zone boundary) the BOEM must issue a lease that allows the developer access to the site and FERC must issue a license for the project to move forward.

A National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis is always required prior to any action taken by a federal agency.

NEPA was enacted to ensure that federal agencies evaluate potential environmental impacts of any proposed action and reasonable alternatives. As a result of an initial scoping process the project either receives a Categorical Exclusion (CX) or an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The results of the NEPA analysis and multiple consultations that occur before leases and licenses are issued are often used to generate monitoring or mitigation requirements that must be implemented as a condition of the license. The FERC pilot project guidance places large emphasis on post-deployment environmental monitoring while the standard commercial licensing process places a larger emphasis on environmental studies conducted before the license application is filed.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 directed the Department of Energy to work with the Department of the Interior and Department of Commerce to develop a program to support research and demonstration and commercial application to expand the use of marine renewable energy sources. It also allowed for the establishment of the National Marine Renewable Energy Centers. There is no regulatory authority conveyed by this Act.

FERC carries out its regulatory authority under the Federal Power Act. In 2008, FERC developed a Guidance for Pilot Project Licensing to speed up the licensing process for demonstration projects. BOEM has also developed a set of regulations governing its OCS Renewable Energy Program.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 provided guidance for federal regulation of new renewable energy technologies in general and amended the OCS Lands Act to give the Secretary of the Interior the authority to regulate the production, transportation or transmission of renewable energy on the OCS. This authority was delegated to BOEM.

Executive Order 13514 “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance” called for the increased use of renewable energy by federal agencies and aligning Federal policies to increase the effectiveness of local planning for locally generated renewable energy.

Plans for changing legal and administrative frameworks to facilitate development and more integrated marine governance: the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Act of 2013 proposed to amend the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. This act has been introduced to the U.S. Senate but has not yet received legislative or executive approval.

Consultation with various stakeholders and regulators is performed at multiple stages of the process.

Stakeholder consultation starts at the very beginning of the project development, and public comment periods are incorporated into each of the regulatory stages. In order to receive a FERC license or BOEM lease, a series of mandatory consultations are performed, usually in conjunctions with the NEPA analysis.

Various reference materials are available to developers to provide additional details on the licensing process. These include FERC’s ‘Handbook for Hydroelectric Project Licensing’, ‘Hydrokinetic Pilot Project Criteria and Draft Application Checklist’ provided by FERC and ‘Siting Methodologies for Hydrokinetics – Navigating the Regulatory Framework’.

Permitting agencies are in the process of developing a permitting regime for a test center (Pacific Marine Energy Center South Energy Test Site). There is currently no ability under U.S. law to allow for complete “pre-permitting” of test sites; each device to be tested will have to undergo some regulatory processes, although data collected at the site could be shared to help accelerate the process.