National Oceans Month: Celebrating Careers in Marine Energy
The ocean offers more than just a retreat for surfers and beachgoers—its tides are an enormous source of untapped renewable energy. During National Oceans Month, we celebrate water power researchers who are discovering innovative ways to harness marine energy to generate electricity. At the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), scientists are working toward solutions to provide reliable, clean energy to remote communities, while also supporting local ecosystems.
Their innovations have inspired the creation of DOE WPTO's first-ever Marine Energy Collegiate Competition. This summer, 15 teams of diverse groups of students will virtually pitch new technologies to gain expertise from industry judges on the business cases for their marine energy devices and prepare for a career in the water power industry.
Representing NREL and DOE, the four professionals featured below showcase the variety of marine energy careers and the promising advancements in wave and tidal research.
As the director for WPTO, Alejandro Moreno spearheads the office's efforts to enable research, development, and testing of emerging technologies to advance marine energy, as well as next generation hydropower and pumped storage systems for a flexible, reliable grid.
"What excites me about working in marine energy is that it's potentially a large source of renewable energy generation for coastal communities—whether big cities or remote communities that don't have any other source of power generation," Moreno said.
Read how Moreno's contributions prepared him to work with DOE's national laboratories, academia, and the marine energy industry.
As a research engineer at NREL, Robynne Murray is focused on validating and developing new materials and advanced manufacturing methods for the marine renewable energy industry. Currently, she is working to develop a thermoplastic resin system for turbine blade manufacturing, which could reduce the blades' costs and improve their recyclability.
"I've always been interested in tidal energy," Murray said. "Growing up just meters away from the Bay of Fundy [Nova Scotia], I saw the tides my whole life. I find it really fascinating that we can capture energy from this resource, and I'm very motivated to find ways to do it more cost effectively."
Find out how Murray's interest in marine energy extends outside the laboratory.
Miguel Quintero is an ocean engineer assigned to the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Carderock Division. As an ocean engineer, Quintero validates wave energy conversion (WEC) devices.
Quintero has simulated a wide range of WECs at the NSWC's Maneuvering and Seakeeping Basin—a 12-million-gallon indoor ocean with depths ranging from 20 to 35 feet.
"I grew up surfing, and I was told that if I was an ocean engineer, I could always be by the ocean. So now I work in a large indoor ocean," Quintero said.
After an internship at the David Taylor Model Basin, one of the largest ship model basins, Quintero knew he wanted to work at the NSWC.
"If you like working with your hands and not doing the same thing every day, then being an ocean engineer is a great career path to go," Quintero said. "You get to work pretty much everywhere; you just have to find what you're passionate about and go for it."
Read how Quintero has collaborated with the DOE on advanced wave energy conversion device validation.
Chong Vue is a water research technician for NREL who develops research data acquisition systems.
Coming from an electrical and mechanical systems background, Vue found promise in the marine energy industry. At NREL's Flatirons Campus, Vue performs research validation and data collection for the wind and water power engineering community.
"The systems I build will be deployed in water buoys, water turbines, or wind turbines," Vue said. "The work I do is important because you have to think about what is more sustainable—not just for the human population, but for the Earth. There's energy all around us. We just need to harvest it, and this is the start."
Learn more about NREL's data analysis tools and how they support the marine energy community.