The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced nearly $2.6 million for 13 hydropower and marine energy projects as part of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program.

DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) selected these small business-led projects that can help spur water power-focused innovation across United States. These projects—five focused on hydropower and eight focused on marine energy—will help achieve the Biden administration’s goals of a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and net-zero-emissions economy by 2050.

The 13 projects include:

Topic: Cost Saving Innovations for Water Conveyance Systems for Powering Non-Powered Dams

Oceanit Laboratories, Inc., Honolulu, Hawaii

Nanocomposite Surface Treatment for Significant Cost Saving for Water Conveyance Systems for Powering Non-Powered Dams

This project will optimize and test a novel surface treatment for water conveyance systems (such as the tunnels and conduits through or around a dam) that is designed to reduce drag and prevent corrosion and biofouling. The treatment is expected to result in low surface energy, or friction, which also prevents biological organisms (such as mollusks and mussels) from adhering and helps to reduce maintenance and increase operational efficiency.  

River Connectivity Systems, Bainbridge Island, Washington

Cost-Effective Alternatives to Gated Selective Withdrawal System at Non-Powered Dams

The project team will develop selective withdrawal systems, which operators can use to control and manage water temperatures, with materials typically used for debris management and fish guidance. As a result, the system will also be able to contain debris or guide fish as needed.

Topic: Innovative Hydropower Technologies for Low Head (Less Than 30-ft.)

Cadens, LLC, Sullivan, Wisconsin

Microhydro Microgrid

This project will use new materials and advanced manufacturing techniques to develop modularized turbine-generators. The use of advanced manufacturing methods will aim to improve designs and reduce costs. A testbed facility will be used to optimize and validate the design as well as explore integration with a microgrid, which will be able to operate interconnected or in island mode. 

Littoral Power Systems Inc., New Bedford, Massachusetts

Cost-Effective, Standalone Hydropower for Low-Head, Non-Powered Dams

This project will combine Littoral’s Reakt turbine with other technologies, such as a siphon or pressure box, to develop power at non-powered dams and within irrigation canals. The turbine will allow fish and debris to flow through the center. 

Topic: Innovations Accelerating Pumped Storage Hydropower Deployment

RCAM Technologies, Inc., Los Angeles, California

A Low-Cost, 3D-Concrete-Printed, Modular, Marine Pumped Hydroelectric Storage System

This project will analyze U.S. commercial opportunities for a marine pumped hydroelectric energy storage technology, which cycles water through large spheres on the seafloor to release and store energy. The RCAM team will quantify the cost-reducing potential of their advanced manufacturing techniques and the mechanical viability of a new design that makes use of these techniques.

Topic: Co-Development of Marine Energy Technologies with End User Partners

C.A. Goudey & Associates, Newburyport, Massachusetts

A Novel Wave Energy Converter to Power Offshore Macroalgae

This project will test and model a wave energy converter technology that can power a “smart” ocean-based macroalgae farm. The technology will allow shore-based farm managers to respond remotely to the farm’s operational needs.

E3Tec Service, LLC, Hoffman Estates, Illinois

Renewable Ocean Thermal Energy for Low-Pressure Desalination of Seawater with Co-Production of Ammonia

This project will develop and design a prototype ocean thermal energy system to produce power, desalinated water, and carbon-free ammonia for the “EcoVillage” planned on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Emrgy Inc., Atlanta, Georgia

Providing Reliable Power to Coastal Communities Using Hybrid MHK Systems

Project partners will work with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to develop a hydrokinetic array (that generates electricity from flowing water) integrated into a hybrid system with solar energy and storage. This system will provide reliable power to a community that frequently experiences disruptions to the electric grid and high economic and environmental costs associated with the use of fossil fuel resources.

EOM Offshore, LLC, Pocasset, Massachusetts

Development of a Low-Cost, Low-Maintenance, Maximal Asymmetric Drag Wave Energy Converter

This project will advance development of a low-cost, low-maintenance, and easily deployable wave energy converter designed to provide energy for applications in the blue economy such as vehicles, buoys, ocean observation systems, and passive acoustic networks that can detect and characterize sounds in the ocean.

Ocean Renewable Power Company, Portland, Maine

Upper Cook Inlet Electrofuels

The project team will design a device based on the RivGen Power System to generate tidal power in Cook Inlet in Alaska. The team will also create a microgrid design to enable the harnessing of cyclical tidal power for an electrofuel production facility.

Vortex Hydro Power, Northville, Michigan

Integrated Current-Wave Hydrokinetic Energy Harvester for Community Resilience and Benefits to Aquatic Fauna

The project team will design, build, and conduct preliminary testing of a versatile, small-scale, non-turbine device capable of harnessing energy from rivers, ocean currents, tides, and waves. This device could be an option in place of turbines in locations with space or other constraints or where they may disrupt water use, sensitive marine mammals, or fish migrations.

Topic: Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Joint Topic on Community-Driven Solutions for a Just and Equitable Energy Transition

Integral Consulting Inc., Seattle, Washington

Empowering Communities with a Multi-Use Decision Support Dashboard To Participate in Marine Renewable Energy Planning and Development

The project team will collaborate with Redwood Community Action Agency and Santa Barbara Maritime Museum to engage disadvantaged community members and develop a user-friendly dashboard to give all stakeholders a data-driven voice in the marine renewable energy planning and development process. The interactive dashboard will help users visualize and understand ocean use data to promote meaningful stakeholder engagement and communications and informed and inclusive decision-making.

Ocean Motion Technologies, Inc., San Diego, California

Impactful Implementation of Next-Generation Ocean Data Infrastructure through Scalable Community and Stakeholder Engagement Programs

The project team will partner with the Ocean Foundation to leverage an ocean wave energy device to build a big-data platform for ocean data gathering. The project will involve a network of partners—including community-trusted project and scientific partners, coastal communities, and commercial pilot partners—to explore a “hardware-as-a-service” business model to deliver this big-data infrastructure for ocean monitoring data at a reduced cost.

Learn more about the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s SBIR and STTR program.