Marine Energy Atlas

The Marine Energy Atlas is a central portal for publishing the latest information about these resources and for accessing data sets that can be used for additional analysis.

To understand the full potential for future electricity production that can be harnessed through our nation’s water resources, the Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) conducted the following resource assessments:

  • Waves—energy contained in ocean surface waves
  • Tidal streams—energy contained in the flow of water from tides
  • Ocean currents—energy contained in the flow of water resulting from large-scale ocean circulation patterns
  • River currents—energy contained in rivers that can be harnessed without flow diversion structures such as dams
  • Ocean thermal gradients—energy contained in the temperature difference between ocean surface and deeper waters.

A summary of the resource assessments of these energy sources was published in early 2021 in “Marine Energy in the United States: An Overview of Opportunities.” The charts and tables below provide high-level overviews of the results presented in the summary.

Graphic showing the MRE Resources Map.

There are three levels of resource assessments:

  • Theoretical resource potential-annual average amount of physical energy that is hypothetically available
  • Technical resource potential-portion of a theoretical resource that can be captured using a specific technology
  • Practical resource potential-portion of the technical resource that is available when other constraints—(e.g., economic, environmental, and regulatory considerations)—are factored in.

The following table is a reference for the theoretical and technical levels of U.S. marine energy resource potential.

U.S. Marine Energy Resources

Theoretical Resource
(TWh/yr)

Technical Resourceb
(TWh/yr)

Technical Resource as Potential Number of Homes Powered

Technical Resource as Percent of U.S. Electricity Generation
(4126.7 TWh) (%)

Wave
(EEZ)

3,300

1,400

130,000,000

34

Wave
(to 10 nmi)

1,800

770

72,000,000

19

Tidal

440

220

21,000,000

5.4

Ocean Current

160

49

4,600,000

1.2

Ocean Thermal

Not reported

540

51,000,000

13

River

1,300

99

9,300,000

2.4

Total

5,200

2,300

220,000,000

57

WPTO is committed to identifying resource potential and continuing to refine these assessments as renewable marine energy resources are further developed.