WPTO supports foundational research at both national labs and non-federal institutions to determine the power needs of blue economy sectors and develop small-scale marine energy technologies to meet those needs.

WPTO, NREL, and PNNL identified which blue economy applications could benefit most from marine energy and published those in the 2019 Powering the Blue Economy: Exploring Opportunities for Marine Renewable Energy in Maritime Markets report. These applications range from coastal resilience to ocean farming and help guide the research and development of smaller renewable energy systems.

PNNL and NREL have also received funding to work on foundational R&D projects. Researchers are investigating more efficient power systems for marine energy technologies, characterizing the potential of using ocean thermal and salinity gradients to charge autonomous underwater vehicles, and more. WPTO also announced funding for marine energy foundational research at non-federal institutions, and several selected projects will involve PBE-focused themes, such as microgrids and autonomous underwater vehicle charging.

WPTO’s Seedlings and Saplings program also supports research at national laboratories by providing seed funding to foster new exploratory research ideas. Seedling projects have the opportunity to continue expanding as Sapling projects if they warrant further research or even commercialization. Seedling projects have covered topics relating to ocean observation, aquaculture, microgrids, seawater mineral extraction, and new small-scale energy harvesting devices. So far the program has been successful in growing novel ideas and producing tangible results over short timelines. One project investigated the geographical overlap of wave energy resources and areas suitable for ocean aquaculture; another designed a system to extract lithium from seawater using marine energy; and another developed the framework for an autonomous microgrid that could serve remote, coastal, and island communities.

Workers stand on a dock deploying marine energy equipment.

Team members deploy a preliminary testing device that supports foundational research for small, modular, wave-powered desalination systems at Jennette’s Pier in Dare County, North Carolina. Photo: Coastal Studies Institute

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