What is Marine Energy?

Marine energy, also known as marine and hydrokinetic energy or marine renewable energy, is a renewable power source that is harnessed from the natural movement of water, including waves, tides, and river and ocean currents. Marine energy can also be harnessed from temperature differences in water through a process known as ocean thermal energy conversion.

The opportunities to harness marine energy are abundant. The total available marine energy resource in the United States is equivalent to approximately 57% of all U.S. power generation in 2019. Even if only a small portion of this technical resource potential is captured, marine energy technologies would make significant contributions to the nation’s energy needs. Researchers are testing and deploying new technologies with the goal of harnessing energy from these plentiful water resources.

How Does Marine Energy Work?

Marine energy technologies use the kinetic energy of waves, currents, tides, and thermal energy of deep cold water to surface water conversion to generate clean energy. For example, some wave energy converters use buoys to capture energy from the ocean’s vertical and horizontal movement, while turbines can harness energy from tides and currents. Learn more about the different types of marine energy resources on the Portal and Repository for Information on Marine Renewable Energy’s Marine Renewable Energy Basics webpage.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Mystic Aquarium teamed up to create a series of animated videos that explain marine energy technologies. 

What are the Benefits of Marine Energy?

Marine energy resources are geographically diverse and, considering over 50% of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of the coast, well situated to power communities. These resources are also highly predictable, making them promising contributors to a stable, reliable clean energy grid. For example, marine energy resources’ daily and seasonal cycles make them an excellent complement to other renewable energy sources like wind and solar. 

Most marine energy technologies are submerged or otherwise located out at sea, meaning they generate clean energy while maintaining beautiful ocean and water vistas. These technologies can also power additional efforts such as studying the unmapped ocean, refining desalination systems to provide clean drinking water, and further exploring blue economy applications.

Explore more Benefits of Marine Energy and visit the Marine Energy STEM Portal to learn more about helping advance the marine energy industry.

Marine Energy News & Publications

Everyone Creates a Ripple: What’s Your Ripple Effect?
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office Ripple Effect profile series features just a few of the individuals whose impactful work will help advance hydropower and marine energy technologies.
Learn more