Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

4 Must-Have MHK Tools to Help Unlock the Power of Water

March 11, 2014

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Energy 101: Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy

Watch the video above to learn how marine and hydrokinetic technologies can harness energy from waves, tides, and river and ocean currents to generate electricity.

With more than half of the nation’s entire population living within 50 miles of coastlines, the U.S. has huge potential to provide clean, renewable electricity to communities and cities across the United States using marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) technologies. MHK devices capture energy of waves, tides, and river and ocean currents, and convert this energy into clean, reliable electricity.

The Energy Department’s Water Power Program, in collaboration with academia, our national laboratories, and the private sector, aims to advance the emerging MHK industry, which consists of dozens of potentially viable water power technologies. The program has released several maps and tools that are helping the MHK industry understand how these technologies can capture water power's potential for renewable electricity production. These include:

  • The MHK Atlas, a project by the Electric Power Research Institute, Virginia Tech, and the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, provides critical data on wave energy and ocean thermal resources in the United States. The database will include other ocean energy data sets in the future.
  • Georgia Tech’s Assessment of Energy Production from Tidal Streams in the United States highlights the theoretically available energy in the nation's tidal streams.
  • The Assessment of Energy Production from Ocean Currents in the United States, also developed by Georgia Tech, details the maximum theoretical power resource contained in the nation’s ocean currents. 
  • The River Atlas, created by Electric Power Research Institute, University of Alaska Anchorage, and the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, illustrates the hydrokinetic energy generation potential of rivers in the continental United States. The tool shows both theoretical and technically recoverable potential.

Another example of the program’s efforts to provide useful information and data to industry is through a new funding opportunity announcement for projects related to MHK technologies. The goal: to develop and test instruments that will acquire and transmit ocean wave data (including height, period, direction, steepness, etc.) to MHK devices nearby. Device control systems would then process the data and automatically adjust device settings in real-time to capture the maximum amount of wave energy that can be converted into electricity.  The new funding also focuses on projects that develop or improve instruments for environmental monitoring, which could indicate the presence of sensitive species near MHK projects or measure the acoustic output of devices.

The program also announced funding to develop a new competition that challenges universities, individuals, and existing and emerging companies to improve the performance and lower the cost of energy produced by wave energy converter devices. Learn more about these two new funding opportunity announcements