The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) and the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) today announced five students for this year’s cohort for the Marine Energy Graduate Student Research Program. These students will undertake research to advance the understanding and development of marine energy resources through work with DOE national laboratories and other government and industry partners.

Marine energy uses natural energy from moving water—such as waves, tides, and river and ocean currents—to produce renewable power. The power coursing through oceans and rivers equates to nearly 60% of the United States’ total electricity needs in 2019. Even if only a small portion of this technical resource potential is captured, marine energy could make significant contributions to the nation’s energy needs. It could also provide millions of Americans with locally sourced, clean, and reliable energy and contribute to the nation’s goal of achieving a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050.

The students selected for the 2023 Marine Energy Graduate Student Research Program are:

  • Hannah Brachfeld, who will work with the U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Office of Fleet Installations and Environment to understand the implications of future offshore marine and wind energy siting decisions and how the departments of Defense and Homeland Security engage in marine energy policy and planning. Hannah is pursuing a master’s degree in environmental sciences and public policy at Oregon State University.
  • Brittany Lydon, who will work with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to conduct wave tank experiments and investigate the behavior of oscillating surge wave energy converters (OSWECs). OSWECs often involve floats, flaps, or membranes. They typically have one end fixed to an underwater structure or the seabed while the other end is free to move. When waves move the device, the hinging motion may drive a generator to produce electricity. This research will help inform data-driven modeling of wave energy devices. Brittany is pursuing a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington.
  • Nicole Marone, who will work with Ocean Renewable Power Company and Sandia National Laboratories to develop fluid-structure interaction (FSI) models for a crossflow turbine, which is a vertical-axis turbine with spinning blades oriented perpendicular to the direction of water flow. FSI models will be used to measure fatigue of blade materials. Nicole is pursuing a doctorate in ocean engineering from the University of New Hampshire.
  • Alexander Robinson, who will work with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Sequim campus to develop reliable methods to quantify trace materials (such as chromium and nickel) in seawater following ocean alkalinity enhancement (OAE). OAE is a process that reverses ocean acidity to allow more uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Alexander is pursuing a doctorate in material science engineering from the University of Washington.
  • Vinson Williams, who will work with the Department of the Navy’s Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division to develop and test methods to scale turbines down for individual or small-scale use in areas such as rivers or streams that are spatially constrained, making it difficult to mount rigid structures. Vinson is pursuing a doctorate in aerospace and aeronautical engineering from North Carolina State University.

The Marine Energy Graduate Student Research Program is open to full-time graduate-level (master’s and doctoral) students with a research thesis or dissertation at a U.S. institution. Students receive a monthly stipend, some tuition reimbursement, and other benefits. This year’s students represent the program’s fifth cohort. WPTO and ORISE typically release the application for this annual program in September, and applications close in December.

Read about the previous cohort of Marine Energy Graduate Student Research Program participants.

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