WPTO Multi-Year Program Plan

The Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP) serves as an operational guide to help the Water Power Technologies Office manage and coordinate its activities, as well as a vehicle to communicate WPTO’s mission, goals, and plans to water power stakeholders and the public. The Office’s first MYPP, this report details WPTO’s research, development, demonstration, and commercial activities for the coming years and outlines how these efforts are important to meeting the nation’s energy and sustainability goals.

Organized by program and activity area, this report provides a comprehensive summary of all key performance goals to be achieved by 2025, as well as follow-on objectives running through 2030.

  1. Introduction
  2. Water Power Technologies Office Overview
  3. Hydropower Program Overview
  4. Marine Energy Program Overview
  5. Hydropower Multi-Year Program Plan
  6. Marine Energy Multi-Year Program Plan

All goals and efforts build toward the office’s overall mission to enable research, development, and testing of new technologies to advance marine energy and hydropower systems for a flexible, reliable grid. For additional follow-on objectives, read the Executive Summary.

Key goals of each activity area within WPTO are described below.

Key Goals by Activity Area (2021-2025)


Innovations for Low-Impact Hydropower Growth

  • Develop data sets and tools to identify development potential and site characteristics of new stream-reaches, non-powered dams, and conduit resources.
  • Publish R&D roadmap that identifies opportunities to leverage advanced manufacturing and materials in hydropower applications.
  • Complete testing and pre-commercial demonstrations of cost-competitive technologies across each class of hydropower resource with validated energy and environmental performance characteristics.
  • Complete development of a full-scale, federally sponsored hydropower test facility and/or network of facilities.
  • Establish a framework for assessing costs and benefits of new hydropower projects.

Grid Reliability, Resilience, and Integration (HydroWIRES)

  • Publish regionally focused roadmaps for maximizing hydropower’s value for reliability, resilience, and integration.
  • Release a cost-benefit assessment toolbox for owners and operators of hydropower and pumped storage hydropower (PSH) plants, focused on revenue opportunities, environmental outcomes, and machine impacts to inform asset-level decisions.
  • Release a cost-benefit toolbox for system-level decision makers, such as planners and regulators, that integrates system values and costs, externalities of hydropower, and the potential to integrate other resources.
  • Test innovative technology R&D at a small-scale PSH or flexible hydropower demonstration project, potentially including new PSH concepts and/or flexibility enhancement through hybrid controls and advanced operations.

Fleet Modernization, Maintenance, and Cybersecurity

  • Develop and publish hydropower digital twin capabilities (e.g., numerical models, computational codes, and underlying physics/engineering data) appropriately scaled for a diverse range of hydropower plant characteristics. 
  • Publish valuation assessment guidance to facilitate investments into hydropower digitalization, maintenance, and cybersecurity. 
  • Complete initial phases of research on fatigue-and-wear mechanisms for high-impact hydropower components, including both conventional and advanced materials, which can reduce forced outages and help design the next generation of hydropower components. 
  • Develop hydropower plant cyber-surrogate capabilities that can be integrated into existing cybersecurity processes and reduce hydropower plant vulnerabilities. 

Environmental and Hydrologic Systems Science

  • Complete field validations of fish detection and tracking capabilities relevant for hydropower studies, including demonstration of environmental DNA and prototypes of acoustic telemetry tags for sensitive species and a self-powered acoustic fish tag.
  • Demonstrate innovative tools and technologies that are benchmarked for cost and performance, including innovative fish passage technologies and sensor systems.
  • Demonstrate real-time data collection, automation, and visualization to inform decision makers’ choices to operate hydropower resources for enhanced environmental performance in water and species management.
  • Release a nationwide analysis and visualization platform that enables utilities and system operators to evaluate potential long-term water-availability and climate change-related risks to hydropower assets.
  • Validate new technologies to more accurately characterize and model methane emissions from reservoirs and other water bodies.

Data Access, Analytics, and Workforce Development

  • Launch and improve the new externally oriented HydroSource online data portal with broad use-case capabilities.
  • Develop a standard suite of application programming interface capabilities that will provide access to hydropower market information.
  • Leverage machine learning and new big-data access approaches, in collaboration with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and other stakeholders, to increase access to information available in the commission’s eLibrary.
  • Publish a report on the key issues on the time, cost, and uncertainty associated with U.S. hydropower regulatory processes.
  • Release a new hydropower-focused education portal and initiate new partnered efforts to provide data and informational support for high-priority hydropower workforce training needs.
  • Launch the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) first-ever hydropower collegiate competition and hydropower-focused fellowship program, providing students of diverse backgrounds and disciplines the opportunity to develop key skills for a career in hydropower.

Marine Energy

Foundational R&D

  • Evaluate performance of composite and other novel materials for marine energy converter systems and subsystems, such as wave energy converter hulls and tidal energy converter blades.
  • Develop power take-off/control system co-design methodologies and partner with technology developers to pilot the use in marine energy converter device design processes.
  • Validate foundational modeling tools with data from water testing projects.
  • Disseminate data sets and models through upgrades of the Marine Energy Atlas and DOE interface to cloud computing services and web-based tools.
  • Complete resource assessments in support of marine energy projects to enhance the resilience of specific remote communities. 
  • Test new component technologies that support significantly improved installation, operations, and maintenance, such as wet-mate connectors and distributed energy conversion technologies.
  • Advance power electronics technologies that support integration of marine energy devices into coastal community microgrid system applications.

Technology-Specific System Design and Validation

  • Complete initial field-testing for modular current energy converter systems that capture hydrokinetic river energy in low-flow environments, which only requires limited use of port and deployment vessel infrastructure.
  • Complete first year-long field tests of wave energy converter device designs in fully energetic wave environments (likely at the PacWave facility).
  • Complete at-sea, pre-commercial demonstrations of newly developed marine energy-powered ocean observing and desalination systems.
  • Refine concept, design, and small-scale prototype testing of new wave energy system concepts.
  • Establish U.S. capabilities for third-party certification of compliance to International Electrotechnical Commission technical specifications. These capabilities include power performance and mooring systems assessments, electrical power quality requirements, measurement of mechanical loads at the PacWave wave energy test facility, and power performance assessment of current energy converters tested with the Mobile Test Vessel.

Reducing Barriers to Testing

  • Complete a minimum of 100 technical support actions under the Testing Expertise and Access for Marine Energy Research initiative in collaboration with U.S. universities and national laboratories.
  • Develop a U.S testing network of at least 30 facilities, including a range of capabilities across traditional marine energy research facilities as well as new incumbent facilities with interdisciplinary expertise including non-grid applications.
  • Identify testing infrastructure gaps, including needs for non-grid applications, at universities and the national laboratories and, as appropriate, address those needs through infrastructure upgrades and development of new capabilities.
  • Commission, initiate testing, and gain accreditation for the PacWave grid-connected, open-ocean wave test facility.
  • Demonstrate the improved technical performance of environmental monitoring technologies in relevant marine energy environments while collecting data on acoustic outputs, electromagnetic field signatures, benthic habitats, and marine organism interactions with marine energy devices.

Data Access, Analytics, and Workforce Development

  • Publish an assessment of marine energy industry data needs.
  • Collect, analyze, and publish data from existing in-water testing projects to generate new foundational understanding of marine energy devices and identify promising areas for additional research.
  • Complete integration of publicly available, WPTO-funded marine energy databases with interconnected search functionality.
  • Launch a marine energy permitting toolkit to improve regulators’ access to information about marine energy resources, devices, and potential environmental effects.
  • Release a marine energy science, technology, engineering, and math portal consisting of educator and student resources and curricula.
  • Improve targeted outreach to diversify the pool of students participating in WPTO workforce development programs such as the graduate student research fellowship and Marine Energy Collegiate Competition.

Stay in the know with WPTO as we roll out these new activities! Subscribe to the monthly Hydro Headlines and Water Column newsletters, as well as the comprehensive, bi-monthly Water Wire newsletter for information on funding opportunities, events, products, and news.