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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, impact 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
  • Maritime Markets

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

NREL is developing a techno-economic analysis tool for marine energy technologies using the System Advisor Model (SAM). SAM is free software that combines detailed performance and financial models to estimate the cost of energy for systems. SAM has been used with other renewable energy technologies, including wind, solar, and geothermal. The SAM tool will enable the marine energy community to perform cost and performance analysis of a potential system quickly and consistently.


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

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

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


Scott Jenne

Researcher Engineer