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See how marine and hydrokinetic technologies harness the energy of the ocean's waves, tides, and currents and convert it into electricity to power our homes, buildings and cities.

Video courtesy of the Department of Energy

You’ve probably seen water at work generating electricity at dams and other hydropower facilities in your region. But an emerging clean energy technology called marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) energy -- or ocean power -- uses water to generate electricity in a different way, and has yet to get on many people’s radar. The Energy Department’s new Energy 101 video illustrates the basics of how MHK devices capture energy from the motion of waves, tides and even river currents.

Covering about three quarters of earth, our oceans are one of the biggest potential renewable energy sources on the planet. The Energy Department estimates that the maximum theoretical electric generation that could be produced from U.S. wave and tidal resources is approximately 1,420 terawatt hours (TWh) per year. That’s about one-third of the nation's total annual electricity usage.  Of course, not all of this theoretical potential will be developed, but this vast resource clearly holds promise as one of the clean energy sources of the future. 

In fact, the town of Eastport, Maine, is already benefitting from a grid-connected MHK system that harnesses energy from water moving in and out of Cobscook Bay from tidal currents. Announced last summer, this Energy Department-funded pilot was developed by Ocean Renewable Power Company, which plans to expand its MHK project and install additional tidal current energy devices to generate more energy off the coast of Maine, as well as in Alaska’s tidal or river currents.

Developing our nation’s promising and diverse renewable energy resources is an important part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, which will create jobs and strengthen U.S. global competitiveness. With future investments planned to advance ocean power and other renewable energy innovations, the Energy Department is working hard to ensure that America leads in the fast-growing global clean energy industry.