Annual Report 2014
Country Reports


Alison LaBonte U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)


In addition to NMRECs, DOE’s national laboratories possess unique instruments and facilities and address large scale, complex R&D challenges with an approach that emphasizes translating basic science to innovation. The Water Power Program partners with several of these important R&D institutions to support R&D in MHK technologies. 

Sandia National Laboratories (SNL): Through a partnership with several national laboratories and academic institutions, SNL is leading efforts in technology development, market acceleration, and reference model developments. SNL contributes to MHK technology in the following areas:

  • Advanced non-linear controls, code development, array optimization and extreme events simulation
  • Design and testing of tidal turbines and development requirements for deep tank testing
  • Wave environment characterization and measurements in tidal flows
  • Wave and tidal energy modeling to predict environmental effects of energy removal and inform optimal device spacing

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL): NREL’s research supports the Water Power Program’s efforts to research, test, evaluate, develop and demonstrate deployment of innovative water power technologies. NREL supports development of market-relevant scientific and technical knowledge, research and testing, and addressing environmental impacts. Specifically, NREL supports the Program through:

  • Wave and tidal computation modeling and analysis
  • Industry project development, needs assessments and data management
  • Testing instrumentation, standards and certificati on
  • Tidal and current resource characterization
  • Training, education and outreach
  • Strategic long-term vision and roadmap development for water power in the United States

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL): PNNL supports the Water Power Program through research, engineering, information aggregation and disseminations, resource characterization and forecasting, market analysis, planning and coordination to overcome barriers for water power. PNNL’s specific efforts include:

  • MHK environmental impacts research, international collaboration and information sharing
  • Tidal and current modeling development and validation
  • MHK technology advancement through advanced materials and manufacturing reliability
  • Wave resource characterization
  • Monitoring tools and mitigation technologies and methodologies
  • Education outreach and information sharing

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL): ORNL is involved in a number of R&D activities supporting the Water Power Program’s mission. These activities and products help all stakeholders understand and resolve the environmental effects of MHK technologies and help developers advance MHK technologies to commercialization. ORNL scientists are currently conducting laboratory and field experiments to evaluate the effects of noise and electromagnetic fields on marine organisms.


LCOE Modeling: To normalize competing claims of LCOE, the Water Power Program and national laboratory partners have developed, for the Program’s own use, a standardized cost and performance data reporting process to facilitate uniform calculation of LCOE from MHK device developers. This standardization framework is a working version in what is anticipated to be an iterative process that involves industry and the broader Water Power Program stakeholder community. The LCOE reporting process references a generalized Cost Breakdown Structure (CBS) for MHK projects that is being developed by the Water Power Program and NREL. This CBS is a hierarchical structure designed to facilitate the collection and organization of lifecycle costs of any type of MHK project, including WECs and current energy converters. At a high level, the categories in the CBS will be applicable to all projects; at a detailed level, however, the CBS includes many cost categories that pertain to one project but not others.

Advanced Design Tools: To help advance the survivability, availability and cost-effectiveness of high performance WEC devices, in 2014, the Water Power Program and national laboratory partners advanced control strategies, open source simulation tools, and modelling and design methodologies for the industry.

  • The Water Power Program’s Advanced Controls project is demonstrating the potential of nonlinear controls to ultimately enable WEC developers to select the best control strategies for their devices.
  • The WEC Simulation project has resulted in an open source code and will make a validation data set available at the end of 2015 that meets the needs of both existing and new WEC developers.
  • In fiscal year 2015, NREL and SNL will develop and validate a methodology for modelling WECs in extreme conditions to advance the state of the art in Extreme Conditions Modeling of WECs.

Reliability Framework: To help reduce the risks of industry failures and advance the development of current and new technologies at a lower cost and faster pace, the Water Power Program and NREL have developed an MHK technology reliability and survivability risk assessment framework. This framework provides a risk management methodology to identify and reduce risks during all stages of technology development, particularly prior to demonstration activities. The framework will be released in August 2015.

Wave Resource Modeling: To accurately characterize the wave energy resource at resolutions sufficient for siting and deployment purposes, the Water Power Program is working with SNL and PNNL to deliver a wave modelling system that can simulate near-shore wave dynamics with high spatial resolution over the entire West Coast. The modelling system uses an unstructured grid modelling framework and will incorporate wave-device interactions and effects to better plan, site and deploy WEC arrays. 

NNMREC’s Advanced Laboratory and Field Arrays Project (ALFA): NNMREC is a multi-institution entity with a diverse funding base that focuses on R&D for marine renewables. The ALFA project conducted by NNMREC works to reduce the LCOE of MHK energy by leveraging research, development and testing capabilities at Oregon State University, University of Washington, and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. ALFA will accelerate the development of next-generation arrays of WEC and tidal energy conversion devices through a suite of field-focused R&D activities spanning a three year performance period.

Environmental R&D: To help address the technological limitations associated with environmental monitoring of MHK devices, the Water Power Program awarded $2.75 million to five new projects in 2014 to improve existing or develop new environmental monitoring technologies. These projects will focus on the detection and classification of marine animals in the vicinity of MHK devices, measuring noise produced by devices, automating optical data processing and developing integrated instrumentation packages to monitor MHK devices more efficiently. In 2014, nine projects that focus on furthering understanding of potential environmental effects from the deployment and operation of MHK devices got underway. The projects include research by universities, industry, non-profits, and national laboratories on device-generated noise and its subsequent effects on marine mega fauna, understanding
interactions between fish and tidal turbines, developing and using models to predict strike occurrence and assessing the potential effects that electromagnetic fields may have on marine species. The Water Power Program awarded $2.4 million in 2013 to support these projects.