In 2021 and 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) advanced hydropower and marine energy technologies to help realize water power’s full potential to contribute to a clean energy future.

Letter from the Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Alejandro Moreno

Incredible work is underway across the U.S. Department of Energy to make progress toward the nation’s goals of a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035 and a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050. Throughout Fiscal Year 2022, our Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) and its partners at national laboratories, academic institutions, companies, and other organizations led efforts crucial to advancing the hydropower and marine energy technologies that have an important role in achieving these goals and our clean energy future. Read the Letter

Letter from the WPTO Director Jennifer Garson

I am pleased to share the 2021–2022 Accomplishments Report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO). This report offers a glimpse into the important work happening across our Hydropower and Marine Energy programs with partners at national laboratories, academic institutions, companies, and other organizations. Read the Letter

Projects Across WPTO

Along with projects supported through WPTO's Hydropower and Marine Energy programs, the office led crucial cross-office initiatives and championed important efforts cross DOE.

WPTO Releases First Multi-Year Program Plan Outlining Research Priorities and Activities
WPTO released its first Multi-Year Program Plan, a comprehensive report outlining the office’s future research, development, demonstration, and commercial activities.
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Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize Selects Climate Justice Changemakers
In Phase One, the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize awarded a $3.6 million prize pool to 18 organizations working to advance the Justice40 Initiative by prioritizing climate solutions and energy justice for disadvantaged communities.
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Hydropower Program

Hydropower is one of the oldest and largest sources of renewable energy and uses the flow of moving water to generate clean electricity that powers homes, businesses, and industries. In 2021, hydropower accounted for 31.5% of U.S. renewable electricity generation, while pumped storage hydropower (PSH) remains the largest contributor to U.S. energy storage, representing roughly 93% of all commercial storage capacity in the United States.

WPTO's Hydropower Program conducts research, development, demonstration, and commercial activities to advance transformative, cost-effective, reliable, and environmentally sustainable hydropower and PSH technologies; better understand and capitalize on opportunities for these technologies to support the nation’s rapidly evolving grid; and improve energy-water infrastructure and security.

WPTO envisions a U.S. hydropower and pumped storage industry that modernizes and safely maintains existing assets; responsibly develops new low-impact hydropower; promotes environmental sustainability; and supports grid reliability, integration of other energy resources, and energy-water systems resilience. To achieve this vision, WPTO’s Hydropower Program supports R&D projects across five activity areas. Success stories in the WPTO 2021–2022 Accomplishments Report are presented within these activity areas:

Testing on New Turbine Demonstrates Safe Passage for Large and Small Fish
Natel Energy’s Restoration Hydro Turbine is the first in the industry to enable safe passage for large and small fish while also meeting installation configurations for a wide variety of hydropower facilities.
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New Composite Material Results in Lighter, More Durable Hydropower Runner Blades
Researchers created and tested a composite hydropower turbine runner blade and found it performed nearly identically to traditional blades made of stainless steel.
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New Assessment Finds Opportunities for Conduit Hydropower Development Across the United States
An Oak Ridge National Laboratory report found opportunities to develop hydropower on conduits in every state, totaling 1.41 gigawatts of new generating potential.
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New Research Informs Decision-Making on Powering Non-Powered Dams
Oak Ridge National Laboratory developed two tools and published a report to aid developers making decisions about whether to add power-generating infrastructure to dams that currently do not generate power.
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Natel Energy Advances Modular Hydropower Technology that Supports Watershed Restoration
Natel Energy developed its Restoration Hydro modular concept, which combines watershed restoration efforts with new hydropower development.
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New Tool Helps Developers Evaluate Locations for Small Hydropower Projects
Researchers created the waterSHED tool to help demonstrate the design, operation, and feasibility of new, small hydropower projects at streams and sites with existing water infrastructure.
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WPTO Launches New Hydropower Prize Focused on Grid Resiliency and Selects Winners for Phases One and Two
WPTO launched the H2Os Prize, and innovators competed in two prize phases and developed new solutions that can help advance hydropower’s contributions to the grid.
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Researchers Identify Opportunities to Expand Pumped Storage Hydropower
Two national laboratory studies found opportunities to expand and innovate pumped storage hydropower in the United States.
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National Lab Analyses Help Hydropower Operators and Developers Understand How Facilities Can Integrate and Be Profitable on the Changing Electricity Grid
Analyses from Argonne National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest Laboratory help hydropower operators and developers better understand how hydropower facilities can integrate and be profitable on the changing electricity grid.
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Predicting Grid and Market Trends to Maximize Pumped Storage Hydropower Flexibility
A new optimization model for pumped storage hydropower can help grid operators decide how to distribute a facility’s time between generating power and pumping water to store energy.
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Study Examines Sustainability of New Closed-Loop Pumped Storage Hydropower
A study on the sustainability of closed-loop pumped storage hydropower identified the technology as a promising solution to grid-scale energy storage.
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Researchers Demonstrate How to Design and Operate Francis Turbines to Increase Hydropower Facilities’ Operational Flexibility
A General Electric Research-led team demonstrated a new hydropower turbine design and monitoring methodology that allows plant operators to adjust power output in a few seconds to meet energy demand without needing to start or stop units.
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National Laboratory Team Develops First Model for Hydropower Digital Twin
A national laboratory-led project developed a one-dimensional hydropower digital twin that virtually represents the inner workings of a real hydropower plant.
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New Tool Helps Hydropower Plants Assess Cybersecurity Risk
The Cybersecurity Value-at-Risk Framework tool enables hydropower owners and operators to understand their individual plant’s cybersecurity risk and the best approach to mitigate those risks.
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Researchers Find U.S. Hydropower Supply Chain Effectively Supports Existing Fleet but Must Scale Up to Meet Future Demand
An assessment found the U.S. hydropower supply chain effectively supports the existing fleet, but anticipated new construction and the need to refurbish, upgrade, and relicense facilities show a need to scale up domestic supply chain activities.
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New Machine Learning Technology Helps Hydropower Facilities Detect Migrating Eels
A team of researchers optimized deep learning software and created software that can automatically detect migrating fish near hydropower facilities.
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Multi-Regional Study Shows Hydropower Is Reliable Even During Severe Drought
A Pacific Northwest National Laboratory study found hydropower could still be relied upon to supply flexible power during periods of high energy demand—even during the most severe droughts.
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New Collegiate Competition to Support Hydropower Workforce Growth
WPTO launched the inaugural Hydropower Collegiate Competition to inspire the next generation of hydropower workers.
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WPTO Investments Advance Hydropower’s Contributions to Grid Resilience
WPTO made investments in projects at national laboratories, academic institutions, and industry to help advance hydropower’s role in a clean electricity grid.
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Hydroelectric Production Incentive Program Distributes $13.5 Million to a Record Number of Facilities
A total of $13.5 million was distributed as incentive payments among 55 hydroelectric facilities, a record, through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hydroelectric Production Incentive Program.
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Marine Energy Program

Marine energy technologies transform the incredible amount of energy in the natural flow of oceans and rivers—like currents, tides, and waves—into clean electricity. The U.S. has tremendous marine energy resources. 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 U.S. energy needs.

WPTO's Marine Energy Program conducts research, development, demonstration, and commercial activities that advance the development of reliable, cost-competitive marine energy technologies and reduce barriers to deployment.

The program’s vision is for a U.S. marine energy industry that expands and diversifies the nation’s energy portfolio by responsibly delivering power from ocean and river resources. To achieve this vision, WPTO’s Marine Energy Program supports R&D projects across four activity areas and one initiative. Success stories in the WPTO 2021–2022 Accomplishments Report are presented within these areas:

Analysis Tool Improves Turbine Foil Designs, Increasing Energy Capture by 24%
Ocean Renewable Power Company developed a computational analysis tool that helped the company create new marine energy turbine foil (or blade) designs that reduce costs and increase energy capture by up to 24%.
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Ocean Motion Technologies Demonstrates Wave Energy Converter Capable of Generating Power from Boat Wakes
A project team led by Ocean Motion Technologies deployed a prototype wave energy converter technology that can harness power from waves as small as those created by boat wakes.
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New, Comprehensive Data Now Available on U.S. Marine Energy Resources
Marine energy developers can now access more data on the tidal energy resources available in Alaska’s Cook Inlet, wave hindcast data up to 42 years, and a new tool to estimate how much energy their device could produce at various U.S. sites.
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Workshop Helps Guide Investments in Marine Energy Materials and Manufacturing
More than 100 experts shared ideas on research needs and funding gaps that must be addressed to advance marine energy and help build longer lasting and more affordable and efficient marine energy solutions.
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CalWave Successfully Completes Open-Water Pilot Project
During CalWave’s 10-month open-water test off the California coast, its wave energy converter technology remained operational for 99% of the deployment, and the company collected valuable data on device-ecosystem interactions.
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Hawaii Wave Surge Energy Converter Moves to Build and Test Phase
Researchers at the University of Hawaii took their promising wave energy converter, which could be an especially cost-effective design, from the planning phase into the build and test stage.
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Researchers Demonstrate Prototypes for Harvesting Wave Energy to Power Sensors on Ocean Observation Systems
Researchers advance triboelectric nanogenerator system prototypes, an emerging and potentially cost-effective technology that could be used to power instruments aboard hurricane and tsunami detection or water quality monitoring systems.
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New International Report Outlines Opportunities to Integrate Marine Energy with Offshore Aquaculture
A team led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory developed a first-of-its-kind report that explored how marine energy can help power offshore aquaculture.
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International Marine Energy Standards Buoy a Growing Industry’s Success
WPTO supported the development of a marine energy standards business plan and operational document updates and became a participating member of the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Renewable Energy Applications.
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Triton Initiative Publishes First Large-Scale Environmental Monitoring Recommendations for the Marine Energy Industry
The Triton Initiative Field Trials team completed and published the first large-scale environmental monitoring methodology recommendations for the marine energy industry produced from field tests in the United States.
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PacWave Construction Continues, Projects Selected for Open-Water Testing
Construction continued on PacWave South, a grid-connected and pre-permitted wave energy testing facility in the United States, and WPTO selected projects that represent the first round of open-water testing at the site.
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TEAMER Testing Network Grows and Initiates 35 New Technical Support Activities
The TEAMER program selected 35 technical support recipients as part of its efforts to support developers seeking access to the nation’s best marine energy testing facilities and leading marine energy experts.
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Infrastructure Upgrades at the National Marine Renewable Energy Centers Will Help Accelerate Marine Energy Technology Advancements
The National Marine Renewable Energy Centers are undertaking infrastructure upgrades to support increased marine energy testing and development with the goal of accelerating the wide-scale commercialization of marine energy technologies.
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National Laboratories Upgrade Marine Energy Testing Infrastructure
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories designed and upgraded existing test assets and installed new world-class testing infrastructure to advance marine energy technologies.
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Study Helps Clarify Marine Energy’s Potential Value to the Grid
New report provides a framework to assess marine energy’s potential grid benefits from supporting local resilience to complementing other renewable energy resources.
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Fourteen Student Teams Build and Test Marine Energy Devices Through DOE Competition
WPTO hosted the third annual Marine Energy Collegiate Competition and selected the teams to compete in the fourth annual competition.
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WPTO Selects Three New Marine Energy Research Fellows and Opens the Program to All Graduate-Level Students
WPTO selected three fellows for the 2022 Marine Energy Graduate Research Program and expanded eligibility to all graduate-level students for the 2023 program.
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Waves to Water Prize Concludes with DRINK Finale and Selection of Grand Prize Winner
Competitors completed the Waves to Water Prize and produced some of the first wave-powered desalination prototypes to ever be deployed.
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Ocean Observing Prize Awards BUILD Contest Innovators Investigating Rechargeable Underwater Vehicles
DOE announced three winners of the Ocean Observing Prize’s BUILD Contest. In June, competing teams concluded this contest by testing their marine energy-powered ocean observing prototypes in a state-of-the-art wave tank.
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Community-Driven Program Selects 12 Remote and Island Communities to Accelerate Their Transition to Resilient, Clean Energy
DOE announced 12 competitively selected remote and island communities for the second Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project cohort.
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National Laboratory Researchers Deploy Their First Wave-Powered Desalination Device
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory deployed its first wave-powered desalination test device in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
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DOE Releases First Significant Funding Opportunity Investing in Blue Economy Market
In Fiscal Year 2022, WPTO released a funding opportunity representing the first significant funding the U.S. Department of Energy is investing in a blue economy market.
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