Energy Department Awards $10.5 Million for Next-Generation Marine Energy Systems

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December 28, 2015

The Energy Department today announced six organizations selected to receive up to $10.5 million to support the design and operation of innovative marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) systems through survivability and reliability-related improvements. As part of its MHK technology research and development efforts, the Energy Department is working to harness the largely untapped renewable energy in waves, tidal, ocean, and river currents that could provide clean, affordable energy to homes and businesses across the country’s coastal regions. The improvements supported by this funding will help these devices last longer, cost less to maintain and capture even more sustainable energy from the enormous potential of the nation’s oceans and rivers.

Projects funded under these awards will 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.

Three projects will increase the survivability of wave energy converters, addressing the challenges of designing MHK energy systems to operate in the ocean environment for years:

  • Dehlsen Associates, LLC, of Santa Barbara, California, is developing a wave energy converter (WEC) comprised of multiple pods that use common components to achieve economies of scale. In this project, the device structure will be optimized to improve its survivability characteristics, thus significantly reducing the cost of energy derived from the WEC.
  • M3 Wave LLC, of Salem, Oregon, is developing a WEC that sits on the ocean floor and harnesses energy from the pressure waves beneath ocean waves. This project will develop modeling tools to explore ways to minimize effects of sediment transport, such as water erosion, displacement, and tilting of the device, and to increase the lifetime of the system by reducing maintenance requirements in commercial-scale deployments.
  • Oscilla Power, Inc., of Seattle, Washington, is developing a WEC consisting of a surface float that is tethered to a base suspended in the water. This projects aims to optimize the device’s storm-survival configurations, which will decrease the loads the device experiences during extreme conditions, thus lowering the resulting cost of energy.

The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories will provide numerical modeling resources and expertise to the projects above.

Three additional projects will reduce uncertainty regarding marine installation, operations, and maintenance (IO&M):

  • Columbia Power Technologies, Inc., of Charlottesville, Virginia, will develop and deploy a streamlined, cost-effective installation and recovery process that includes design updates and process improvements related to IO&M, while deploying the floating, offshore WEC. The team also aims to identify specific methods to reduce the cost of energy in future deployments.
  • Igiugig Village Council, in southwestern Alaska, will develop a river turbine system that will demonstrate IO&M design improvements to simplify maintenance and make system components more durable during operations.
  • Verdant Power, Inc., of New York, New York, will complete their TriFrame foundation, which optimizes turbine spacing and support structures to allow for cost-effective IO&M. This will provide a way to deploy three turbines together as a single system and make it possible to retrieve all three turbines with one on-water operation.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates development and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. Go to to learn more about our Water Power Program’s funding opportunities and efforts to develop innovative technologies capable of generating renewable, environmentally friendly, cost-competitive electricity from water resources. To learn more about how MHK devices capture energy from waves, tides and currents, view this Energy 101 video.