Marine energy is an incredible resource. This energy comes from the natural movement of water, including waves, tides, and ocean and river currents. It can also be captured by harnessing the temperature difference between ocean surface waters and deep ocean waters or the pressure created when fresh and salt water mix.
Marine energy is a growing industry, but many people, including students, may not be familiar with marine energy technologies and the promising career pathways made possible by harnessing this resource. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) offers a range of educational resources to teach students of all ages about marine energy.
Teachers, parents, and other caregivers can generate buzz about marine energy by sharing materials that thoughtfully explain the science of marine energy and how these technologies can help solve diverse challenges, like producing clean drinking water or protecting marine wildlife. These educational resources are simple enough for elementary school students to digest, but also engaging enough to keep teenagers (and even adults) entertained.
Visit Communities Implementing Real-World Marine Energy Solutions
In partnership with WPTO and Mystic Aquarium, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory produced a series of animated videos to educate and inspire students to pursue clean energy careers.
First, from their classroom or kitchen table, students can explore volcanic islands that sit in the Atlantic Ocean, 400 miles off the coast of West Africa. The Cabo Verde islands are home to about half a million people, but there is even more life beneath the waves. While the saltwater sparkles with life, the islands lack sources of freshwater—and get most of their fresh water from diesel-electric desalination plants.
Marine energy can help change that. The community may be able to rely on waves to power a desalination facility that produces fresh drinking water. Watch the Clean Water From Ocean Waves video to learn about how marine energy can sustain life on land, while also protecting life underwater.
Or students can “visit” the Hawaiian Islands, where schools and classrooms are filled with lessons about “Mālama Honua,” or the spirit and practice of caring for the environment. Now, Hawaiian communities can use marine energy technologies to help care for the ecosystems that are at the heart of their traditions and culture.
Students can learn about the new ocean-powered devices that monitor Hawaii’s cherished wildlife, like humpback whales. Watch The Wonder of Wave Gliders video to see how waves and sunlight power an ocean surface robot called the wave glider that records whale sounds and monitors the health of the ocean without harming its inhabitants.
Students can also visit Igiugig, Alaska, where anything that cannot be produced locally, including diesel fuel, must be flown into the village. As part of its efforts to transition to clean, locally based energy, the community turned to the river to find a way to draw power from moving water without harming the salmon, which are essential to the village’s survival and way of life.
Watch The Power of a River video to learn more about Igiugig and its partnership with Ocean Renewable Power Company. They worked together to design, build, test, and install the first RivGen Power System, which sits on the riverbed and harnesses energy from river currents.
Tour Renewable Energy Discovery Island
A virtual fieldtrip to Renewable Energy Discovery Island introduces young minds to marine energy technologies, like tidal turbines and ocean observing devices.
Fly through WPTO’s educational 3D animation of a virtual renewable energy-powered island that—with help from the next generation of water power scientists—could one day become reality. Get inspired by diverse marine, hydropower, and other river-based energy technologies, which could energize whole communities, power microgrids and offshore work, and turn salt water into fresh drinking water, all with reliable, renewable energy from moving waters.
First stop on the tour is Tidal Town, where students will discover how tidal turbines capture energy from ocean tides, and how this energy can power coastal towns.
Students can also venture to Research Reef, where they’ll learn how wave-powered ocean observing devices can monitor the atmosphere and the ocean’s health.
These fast-paced and attention-grabbing animations make it easy to show in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms.
Follow the Spark Squad
With the Spark Squad comic book, readers can follow three middle school-aged friends—Jasmine, Aria, and Thomas—as they learn about joules and prepare for the Power Fair. As they face obstacles throughout their journey, the young heroes use their scientific knowledge to collaborate and solve problems.
While the story follows middle schoolers, any kid with a love for comics is shore to enjoy a bit of wave-energy science fiction.
Readers can also have fun with the #MyJouleJourney social media campaign by snapping photos of their solar, wind, and water joules soaring around the neighborhood, then sharing the photo to social media using the hashtag #MyJouleJourney.
Sustaining Waves of Innovation
Whether teachers incorporate these materials into classrooms and curricula, or parents introduce them to their kids at home, these resources can help engage young people, spark their curiosity, and even encourage the next generation to one day participate in WPTO’s Marine Energy Collegiate Competition, Marine and Hydrokinetic Graduate Student Research Program, or other renewable energy workforce development programs.
Learn more about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers and workforce development opportunities on WPTO’s Marine Energy STEM Portal and Hydropower STEM Portal.