Water Power Energy and Economic Analysis

NREL's energy and economic analysis of water power technologies leverages decades of experience in system performance modeling, cost estimation, and tool building throughout the renewable energy sector.

A boat towing a wave energy conversion device at sea.

Active research and development activities include mechanical design and review, hydrodynamics, structural dynamics, advanced controls, model development, grid integration, and instrumentation and validation.

NREL's marine energy and hydropower researchers provide water power stakeholders with a variety of tools to quantify the economic impact of technology innovations and economic feasibility studies. These analyses have been used to focus technology development pathways and highlight near-term economic opportunities for water power technology developers.

Our techno-economic modeling and analysis staff is integrated with hydrodynamic modeling, grid integration, resource characterization, and hardware validation/characterization staff as well as other renewable technology researchers to ensure that the most appropriate models and simulation techniques are leveraged for analyses.

Ongoing research focuses on strengthening data availability and accuracy of cost and performance models for all water power technologies. NREL is continuously expanding its capabilities to better represent the initial capital investments required, installation and balance-of-station costs, impacts of operational strategies, maintenance costs, and advances in technologies throughout the system.


  • Tool creation
  • Levelized cost of energy analysis
  • System cost-estimating
  • Performance modeling
  • Customized analysis for end users
  • Feasibility assessments of blue economy opportunities

NREL's capabilities in analysis, modeling, simulation, and prototype testing and validation support the blue economy. Learn more about our work in maritime markets.

System Advisor Model

The System Advisor Model (SAM) is an open-source techno-economic software that combines performance and financial analysis for renewable energy systems. The tool’s marine energy module enables users to evaluate the cost and performance of marine energy systems. SAM estimates annual energy production and the levelized cost of energy for wave and tidal energy systems at a host of geographical locations using minimal user inputs. The tool produces standardized reports, such as a system summary or a system comparison, which feature graphs and tables to illustrate essential information.


Expert Elicitation for Wave Energy LCOE Futures, NREL Technical Report (2022)

Methodology To Calculate the ACE and HPQ Metrics Used in the Wave Energy Prize, NREL Technical Report (2018)

Analysis of a Wave-Powered Reverse Osmosis System and its Economic Availability in the United States, American Society of Mechanical Engineers' International Conference on Ocean, Offshore, and Arctic Engineering (2017)

Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis of Marine and Hydrokinetic Reference Models, Third Marine Energy Technology Symposium (2015)


Elena Baca

Research Engineer