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Marine Energy Research

NREL performs R&D and economic analyses to drive and empower the development of wave energy and tidal, ocean, and river current energy technologies that will deliver renewable electricity to the grid and provide energy solutions that support the evolving "blue economy."

A wave energy device near Oahu, Hawaii.

To accomplish this, NREL researchers collaborate closely with the wave and current energy communities and leverage their extensive expertise in numerical modeling, laboratory testing, and open water validation. Marine energy researchers benefit from NREL's decades of experience developing wind and solar energy technologies, and experience helping accelerate the pace of marine energy technology and industry development.


NREL's marine energy research capabilities include:

Photo of three researchers examining a 3-D visualization of data on a model of an island.

Design, Simulation, and Control

NREL's wide range of computing resources allow our scientists and engineers to study the performance of marine energy systems at unprecedented levels of detail, helping to enable the development of innovative and robust system designs.

Photo of fish in the sea with the words "powering the blue economy" over the image.

Powering the Blue Economy™

NREL is supporting the Department of Energy Water Power Program's Powering the Blue Economy Initiative by helping develop near term Blue Economy market opportunities, while simultaneously developing experiences with marine energy technologies that can support the advancement of utility scale technologies.

Two researchers discuss images on an illuminated wall.

Technology Innovation and Assessment

NREL researchers are developing methods of innovating and assessing the potential of marine energy technologies to help accelerate the industry toward commercialization. As part of this effort, we are working to develop novel technology concepts, such as flexible material wave energy conversions, that show the potential for high techno-economic performance.

Photo of two researchers in a lab testing a wave energy converter.

System and Component Testing and Validation

NREL's marine renewable energy system and component testing and validation capabilities build on over 30 years of experience in wind, solar, grid, transmission, and siting.

Two researchers look at a power grid projection.

Grid Research

NREL's grid and transmission testing and research capabilities support the development of grid technologies that enable the successful deployment of marine energy technologies, while identifying ways marine energy technologies can support a stable and secure grid system.

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.

Resource Characterization

NREL leads DOE's resource characterization and assessment project. This project delivers the data the marine energy industry needs to identify top-ranking sites and provides measurements of resource details at those sites that are needed for device design and R&D. This team also contributes to the development of international standards for marine energy resource assessment and device power performance.

Data Access and Analysis Tools

NREL, in cooperation with DOE, is developing online resources and data tools that enable the marine energy community to easily access publicly available data sets and data analysis tools that can help accelerate the pace of marine energy technology development.

Market Acceleration: Developing the Next-Generation Workforce

NREL's market acceleration capabilities foster and inspire the next generation of water power professionals who will help spur innovation and support industry needs.


Mike Lawson

Researcher V – Mechanical Engineering