The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) is committed to developing and deploying a portfolio of innovative technologies for clean, domestic power generation from resources such as hydropower, waves, and tides.
What We Do
Leading the world in clean energy is critical to strengthening the American economy, and WPTO is at the forefront of the nation's clean energy frontier. WPTO works with national laboratories, industry, universities, and other federal agencies to conduct research and development activities through competitively selected, directly funded, and cost-shared projects. We are pioneering research and development efforts in both marine and hydrokinetic and hydropower technologies to improve performance, lower cost and ultimately support the United States' ability to sustainably meet its growing energy demand. Marine and hydrokinetic technologies capture energy from waves, ocean thermal gradients, and tidal, ocean and river currents.
Why It Matters
Our cutting-edge research portfolio is aimed to produce the next generation of water power technologies and jump-start private sector innovation critical to the country's long-term economic growth, energy security, and international competitiveness by accelerating the development of markets for those technologies.
2015 Water Power Accomplishments Report
WPTO is committed to developing and deploying a portfolio of innovative technologies and market solutions for clean, domestic power generation from water resources across the United States. Learn more about the 2015 accomplishments.
Providing Clean, Domestic Energy to Grow our Economy
Hydroelectric power, the largest source of renewable electricity in the United States, already allows the nation to avoid 200 million metric tons of carbon emissions each year. Although only a small portion of existing dams produce electricity, new generation equipment can be added to existing infrastructure, upgrades can be made at operating facilities, and innovative sustainable hydropower plants can be built to access the United States' untapped hydropower capacity. WPTO leads the critical research and development efforts necessary to develop the groundbreaking technologies that will drive sustainable growth and economic opportunity for our country.
Tapping New Sources of Clean, Renewable Energy
Marine and hydrokinetic technologies generate energy from highly predictable waves, currents, tides, and ocean thermal resources. With more than 50% of the American population living within 50 miles of the coast, a cost-effective marine and hydrokinetic industry could provide a substantial amount of electricity for the nation. WPTO is investing heavily in this new and innovative industry, a nascent technology sector that is an example of American ingenuity at its best, producing cutting-edge technologies that can contribute to our nation's energy independence.
Supporting Renewable Energy with Stable Power Delivery
Some renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar, can present challenges when added in large amounts to the electric grid because their generation varies with fluctuations in their renewable "fuel" (i.e. wind speed and sunlight availability). Conventional and pumped-storage hydropower, on the other hand, are stable power sources that are also flexible enough to smooth out these fluctuations as they have large reservoirs of "fuel" (i.e. water) to fill any gaps in generation at a moment's notice. This stability and flexibility supports the deployment and integration of more variable renewable resources like wind and solar, increasing our energy independence and lowering our carbon footprint. WPTO is pursuing opportunities to enable this "green backing green" scenario in more locations by quantifying and communicating hydropower's full benefits to stakeholders.
Addressing Environmental and Regulatory Concerns
Minimizing environmental impacts and speeding the permitting process for marine and hydrokinetic devices requires proper project siting. The office funds assessments of the potential environmental impacts of device deployment, including navigational and competing-use impacts. WPTO is also creating guidelines to help device developers navigate the regulatory process.
The Energy Department’s national labs have strong partnerships with industry, government, academia, small businesses, international, and nonprofits to advance the research and development of U.S. water power. WPTO funds research and development activities at the following national laboratories:
- Argonne National Laboratory
- Idaho National Laboratory
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory
- Oak Ridge National Laboratory
- Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
- Sandia National Laboratories
For more information on our current portfolio of work, accomplishments, priorities and how you can work with our labs, view our Stakeholder Webinars.