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Though marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) energy is still in its infancy, the program is developing a robust portfolio of projects to accelerate wave, tidal and current project deployments and development of the MHK market in general. These projects include project siting activities, market assessments, environmental impact analyses, and research supporting technology commercialization.

Learn more about the Water Power Program's work in the following areas of marine and hydrokinetic market acceleration and deployment:

Project Siting

Minimizing environmental impacts and speeding the permitting process for marine and hydrokinetic devices requires proper project siting. The program funds assessments of the potential environmental impacts of device deployment, including navigational and competing-use impacts. The program is also creating guidelines to help device developers navigate the regulatory process.

Environmental Impact Assessments

The program supports research into the effects of marine and hydrokinetic technologies on aquatic ecosystems, including how to avoid or mitigate such effects when possible.

The program funds extensive research into the effects of energy removal in marine and freshwater systems and the impact of devices and arrays on sediment transport dynamics, water quality, marine wildlife, near-shore currents, and food web dynamics. The end results of this research will be comprehensive models and guidelines that inform future placement of marine and hydrokinetic devices and arrays to ensure safe, sustainable deployment.

Intergovernmental Collaboration

The Department of Energy leads in bringing together federal agencies to discuss ongoing marine and hydrokinetic resource use and technology development. Federal agencies actively involved in these discussions include the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Bureau of Ocean Energy, National Park Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, Department of the Navy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These agencies share information on a large range of issues, including project news, financial opportunities for marine and hydrokinetic technologies, mapping, and coordinating rules and regulations.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 calls for the Department of Energy to prepare a report to Congress that addresses the effects of marine and hydrokinetic energy projects, including potential environmental impacts, options to prevent adverse impacts, potential roles for environmental monitoring and adaptive management in mitigating impacts, and necessary components in adaptive management. The report is a cooperative effort with the Department of Commerce (working through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), and the Department of the Interior.

In 2010, the Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior signed a Memorandum of Understanding on offshore renewable energy to prioritize and facilitate environmentally-responsible deployment of commercial-scale offshore wind and marine and hydrokinetic energy technologies on the Outer Continental Shelf. The Memorandum of Understanding states that the agencies will collaborate on activities such as formal and informal information exchange; stakeholder engagement; research on technical, environmental and other questions of mutual interest; joint evaluation and development of standards and guidelines; and the dissemination of any relevant products to decision-makers. The agreement reached in the Memorandum will expedite the commercialization of MHK technologies. In 2011, DOE and the Department of Commerce's National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration signed a Memorandum of Understanding to advance collaborative efforts on the use of weather-dependent and oceanic renewable energy technologies.

The program funds activities that will reduce marine and hydrokinetic energy costs and technical and project risks, which help accelerate the commercial deployment of these technologies.

Resource Assessments

The amount of energy that can be extracted from marine and hydrokinetic resources is not fully known. The program supports assessments of wave, tidal, current, in-stream hydrokinetic, and ocean thermal energy resources in a number of locations across the United States. All current information regarding active and recent assessments can be found on the Resource Assessment and Characterization page.

Economic Analysis

The Water Power Program seeks to fill data gaps necessary for industry advancement by collecting, analyzing, and publishing cost and economic data for marine and hydrokinetic technologies. The Water Power Program provided funding to the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory to adapt the Jobs and Economic Development Impacts (JEDI) model to predict job creation and economic activity generated by specific water power projects and the water power industry as a whole in the United States. The program is also funding a multi-laboratory marine and hydrokinetic reference model, which will provide a methodology and baseline for technical, environmental, and life-cycle economic cost assessments of capital installed costs, operations and maintenance costs, and some potential pathways to cost reductions.

Market Acceleration and Deployment Accomplishments

The Water Power Program has had numerous accomplishments in marine and hydrokinetic market acceleration and deployment. The projects described below highlight some of the program's recent successes in siting, assessment, and project collaboration.

Tethys: Enabling Responsible Development of Ocean Power

The U.S. Department of Energy collaborated with the International Energy Agency's Ocean Energy Systems and others to create the Tethys database. The database documents interactions between wave, tidal, and current devices, marine wildlife, and the oceans' physical systems to enable safe exploration and expansion of clean, renewable energy and ocean power. Tethys also features an interactive map of ocean energy environmental monitoring and research projects around the world. In addition to the database, a complementary report was released that provided an in-depth analysis of the environmental impacts of wave, tidal and current devices, including on wildlife and overall health of the host water body. The results of the analysis—also provided in the report—showed some promising information about the environmental safety of marine and hydrokinetic devices. Visit the Tethys database to view active projects and efforts.

Tidal Turbines off the Shores of New York City

Verdant Power, Inc. completed the next phase of a series of component tests in support of its major tidal energy turbine project in New York City's East River. Once all component and device testing is complete, Verdant will begin installation of the East River turbine array (planned for completion in 2014). The array design incorporates 30 commercial-class tidal energy turbines, which could generate 1,050 kilowatts of electricity. When installed, the turbine array will also allow Verdant Power to collect important data about environmental impacts on fish and river sediment to improve the performance and sustainability of future designs.

Featured Publications

Environmental Effects of Hydrokinetic Turbines on Fish: Desktop and Laboratory Flume Studies

This collection of three reports describes desktop and laboratory flume studies that provide information to support assessment of the potential for...

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Report to Congress on the Potential Environmental Effects of Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy Technologies

This report focuses on potential impacts of marine and hydrokinetic technologies to aquatic environments (i.e. rivers, estuaries, and oceans), fish...

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Proceedings of the Hydrokinetic and Wave Energy Technologies Technical and Environmental Issues Workshop

This workshop focused on information about the technologies and identified potential environmental issues associated with deploying them, and...

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Potential Impacts of Hydrokinetic and Wave Energy Conversion Technologies on Aquatic Environments

The article reviews the results of that workshop, focusing on potential effects on freshwater, estuarine, and marine ecosystems, and we describe...

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