In 2022 and 2023, 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.

Letters from Leadership

Read the latest from DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and WPTO leadership about this past year's accomplishments:

Letter from Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Jeff Marootian

As a country and as a global society, we face an urgent climate crisis. That is why it is so important that we reach our nation's goals to achieve a clean electricity grid by 2035 and a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050. At the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), we have an essential role in meeting these goals.

Within EERE, the Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) supports technology innovation to enable the growth of environmentally sustainable hydropower as an economically competitive source of renewable energy. The office also supports the research, development, demonstration, and commercial application of marine energy technologies that expand and diversify the nation's clean energy portfolio. Advancing both hydropower and marine energy technologies is crucial to achieving our clean energy goals.

Read the letter.

Letter from the Water Power Technologies Office Director Jennifer Garson

I am excited to share the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) 2022–2023 Accomplishments Report. In our report, we highlight a selection of the impressive work underway across the country to advance the hydropower and marine energy sectors.

As we publish this report, I am also marking the end of my tenure as the office’s director. I am incredibly proud of everything WPTO and its partners at the national laboratories and in industry and academia have accomplished together during my time in the office. With that in mind, I’m excited to share some of our more recent successes.

Read the letter.

Projects Across WPTO

In Fiscal Year 2023, several WPTO-funded projects supported efforts across the water power sector. These efforts focused on workforce development and innovative research ideas in hydropower and marine energy at DOE national laboratories and academic institutions.

Collegiate Competitions Help Supercharge the Clean Energy Workforce
WPTO hosted the first Hydropower Collegiate Competition and the first in-person Marine Energy College Competition. Endicott College and the University of New Hampshire won the 2023 Hydropower and Marine Energy Collegiate Competitions, respectively.
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WPTO Expands Innovative Funding Program to Universities and Selects New National Laboratory Projects
The Water Power Technologies Office's expanded Seedling and Sapling program now offers grants and funding opportunities to support research and development activities at academic institutions that do not have significant water power portfolios.
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Hydropower Program

Hydropower plants—big and small—produce renewable energy using the elevation difference created by a dam or diversion structure. Water flows in one side and exits at a lower point, spinning a turbine, which runs a generator and produces electricity.

Hydropower is one of the oldest and largest sources of renewable energy. In 2022, it accounted for about 6.2% of total U.S. utility-scale electricity generation and 28.7% of total utility-scale renewable electricity generation. Additionally, pumped storage hydropower remains the largest contributor to U.S. energy storage, representing roughly 96% of utility-scale energy storage capacity in the United States in 2022.

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

Learn more about success stories across the five activity areas in which the Hydropower Program focuses its work.

Report Identifies Opportunities for Hydropower to Capitalize on Advanced Manufacturing
A national laboratory report examines how advanced manufacturing and materials could benefit the hydropower sector by lowering operation costs and increasing the efficiency of the existing fleet and future facilities.
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NPD HYDRO Tool Helps Prioritize Retrofit Opportunities at Non-Powered Dams
National laboratory researchers released NPD HYDRO, a comprehensive tool that helps users identify and prioritize opportunities to retrofit non-powered dams.
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National Laboratory Report Outlines Opportunities to Improve Hydropower Testing
A new report outlines current gaps in hydropower testing capabilities in the United States and key improvements needed to expand hydropower technology validation and innovation.
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Study Outlines Path for Small Hydropower Facilities to Connect to the Electric Grid
A new study and planning tool will help hydropower facility owners prepare and plan to interconnect their facilities to the grid.
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New Tool Helps Identify Tax Credit Opportunities for Pumped Storage Hydropower Development
A new map and web tool helps hydropower stakeholders understand how the Inflation Reduction Act's investment tax credits can be used to develop pumped storage hydropower projects across the United States.
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Reports Show Hydropower's Value Will Likely Grow in Transition to Clean Energy
Two national laboratories issued three publications that analyze how hydropower's value is likely to increase as the United States transitions to a clean energy grid.
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Portable Microgrid Technology Can Bolster Small-Town Hydropower During Power Outages
Idaho National Laboratory, working with Fall River Electric Cooperative, demonstrated how the new Microgrid in a Box can strengthen small hydropower plants’ abilities to help electric grids recover after a blackout or power disturbance.
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Study Finds Huge Potential for Pumped Storage Hydropower in Alaska
New study identified more than 1,800 sites in Alaska where the state could develop pumped storage hydropower projects to help support its transition to clean energy.
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New Analysis Reveals Pumped Storage Hydropower Has Low Global Warming Potential
Researchers analyzed the life cycle greenhouse gas impacts of energy storage technologies and found that pumped storage hydropower has the lowest global warming potential on average.
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Study Reveals How Novel Liner Technology for Pumped Storage Hydropower Facilities Can Improve Hydropower Efficiency
National laboratory report can improve decision-making on linings used at pumped storage hydropower facilities, which can help make these facilities more resilient and strengthen their benefits to the grid.
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National Laboratory Researchers Adapt Cybersecurity Tool for Hydropower
Idaho National Laboratory researchers worked with hydropower stakeholders to adapt an open-source software solution to support cybersecurity at hydropower facilities.
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Salmon Summit Inspires Downstream Hydropower Workforce
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory supported the 25th annual Salmon Summit, an educational event in eastern Washington designed in part to inspire the next generation of hydropower researchers, diverse STEM professionals, and a science-aware community.
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National Laboratory Researchers Publish Third Assessment on the Effects of Climate Change on the Federal Hydropower Fleet
National laboratory researchers examined and published a report on how climate change may affect water availability for federal hydropower marketing and generation and its impact on future energy demand.
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National Laboratory Researchers Measure Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Hydropower Reservoirs
Researchers used a variety of sampling techniques to consistently and accurately measure methane and carbon emissions from six hydropower reservoirs
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Biodegradable Hydropower Oil Takes Major Step Toward Industry Adoption
A biodegradable and nontoxic hydropower oil has gone through several rounds of testing as its developer aims to ramp up production to achieve commercialization in the next few years.
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New Approach Achieves 98% Accuracy in Detecting and Counting Fish in Hydropower Fish Passages
Oak Ridge National Laboratory improved upon fish species detection and counting using environmental DNA and RNA sequencing, potentially saving time, decreasing costs, and reducing environmental impacts on aquatic species and habitats.
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National Lab Researchers Create Affordable, Durable, and Nontoxic Antibiofouling Coating for Use on Flat and Flexible Surfaces
A new, nontoxic antibiofouling coating reduced the adhesion of algae, mussels, and larva on flat surfaces, rope, nets, and other materials used in the hydropower and marine energy sectors.
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Report Could Help Hydropower Industry Strategize How to Meet Future Workforce Needs
Researchers evaluated challenges and opportunities facing the hydropower industry and how it could attract a new, more diverse workforce.
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New Hydropower Database Provides One-Stop Shop for Licensing and Project Information
The new Hydropower eLibrary serves as a tool for industry stakeholders as they navigate the permitting and licensing process associated with new projects or upgrades at existing facilities.
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New Report Provides Data-Driven Summary of U.S. Hydropower Fleet and Industry Trends
The 2023 edition of the U.S. Hydropower Market Report provides the latest data and research findings to offer a comprehensive overview of developments in the U.S. hydropower and pumped storage hydropower fleet and industry trends.
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Investments Advance Hydropower's Contributions to the Nation's Rapidly Evolving Electric Grid
The Water Power Technologies Office made investments through three funding opportunities, a technical assistance program, and a series of national laboratory projects to advance hydropower technologies.
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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. Because these technologies are still developing, no single technology has yet proven to be the most efficient or cost-effective.

The opportunities to harness marine energy are abundant. The total available marine energy resource in the United States is equivalent to approximately 57% of U.S. power generation. 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. These resources are also highly predictable, making them promising contributors to a stable, reliable clean energy grid. For example, the daily and seasonal cycles of marine energy resources make them an excellent complement to other renewable energy sources like wind energy and solar power.

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.

Learn more about success stories across the four activity areas in which the Marine Energy Program focuses its work.

First-of-its-Kind Marine Carbon Dioxide Removal Device Deployed in Washington State
A national laboratory-led team deployed a first-of-its-kind marine carbon dioxide removal in Sequim, Washington. The system, developed by Ebb Carbon, is capable of sequestering 100 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
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New Method to Measure Wave Energy Could Help Advance Marine Energy Industry
National laboratory researchers designed a potentially more comprehensive and accurate methodology to measure wave energy in the United States and around the world.
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Researchers Advance Artificial Intelligence Designed to Identify Optimal Locations for Marine Energy Devices and to Help Monitor Deployed Devices
Team develops artificial intelligence-based system that searches for optimal placement and monitors environmental effects of marine energy devices.
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National Laboratory Researchers Test More Efficient Way to Build and Power Wave Energy Converters
Researchers proved that taking a co-design approach to building a wave energy converter results in a more durable, powerful, and efficient device.
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Researchers Investigate Laser Treatment to Reduce Corrosion and Biofouling on Marine Energy Devices
National laboratory researchers explore a new laser surface modification approach for marine energy devices to reduce corrosion and biofouling.
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Wave Energy Converter Completes Deployment Despite Hurricane-Fueled Waves
Triton Systems Inc. successfully tested its wave energy converter in hurricane-level waves, proving the durability of its prototype and demonstrating that marine energy can reliably power data collection and ocean exploration activities.
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Power System that Generates Clean Energy from River Currents Demonstrated in Maine
ORPC tests its new Modular RivGen Power System in Millinocket, Maine. Future applications may include power for electric vehicle charging stations, critical infrastructure, and communities.
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National Lab Researchers Uncover Promising Designs to Power Ocean Observing Technologies with Wave Energy
Sandia National Laboratories identified innovative wave energy converter concepts that could power sensors on an ocean observing buoy.
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OpenFAST Modeling Tool Updated With New Capabilities for Marine Energy Developers
Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory expanded the capabilities of their open-source modeling tool to enable simulation of marine energy turbines to help optimize technology designs.
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Researchers Identify Promising Generators and Materials for Underwater Ocean-Observing Vehicles
NREL researchers identified optimal materials for harnessing ocean thermal gradients and generating electricity to power underwater vehicles.
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National Labs Set Groundwork for Marine Energy Development in Island and Remote Coastal Communities
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory completed the first step in developing the Community Deployment Readiness Framework to support remote, coastal, and island community-driven energy transitions.
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National Labs Advance Critical Testing Infrastructure for Marine Energy Technologies
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory installed and continued the construction of critical testing infrastructure that will help to advance research and testing of marine energy technologies.
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TEAMER Program Surpasses $10 Million in Technical Support
In Fiscal Year 2023, the Testing Expertise and Access for Marine Energy Research program surpassed $10 million of technical support across more than 100 marine energy projects since the program launched in May 2020.
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Triton Initiative Develops Technologies and Tools to Support Environmental Monitoring
The Triton Initiative developed and tested methodologies and tools to help researchers better understand and evaluate how environmental stressors related to marine energy technologies may impact marine wildlife.
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Construction Advances at the PacWave South Test Facility
Construction on the PacWave South test facility continued in Fiscal Year 2023 with milestones that include progress in building a facility to distribute energy generated by devices tested while researchers collect data on those devices.
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Eco-Friendly Marine Energy Lubricant Helps Protect Fish and Increase Energy Generation
Researchers developed an environmentally acceptable lubricant to help increase the sustainability and durability of tidal turbines.
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Modular Ocean Data Acquisition System Accelerates Marine Energy Device Development
Researchers supported multiple marine energy projects with the Modular Ocean Data Acquisition system, which allows marine energy technology developers to collect data on how their prototypes perform in the lab, wave tank tests, or open-ocean trials.
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Water Power Technologies Office Releases Its Largest Funding Opportunity and Funds Projects to Accelerate Development of Marine Energy Technologies
In Fiscal Year 2023, the Water Power Technologies Office announced nearly $10 million to advance the development of marine energy technologies and opened its largest funding opportunity to date.
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