Market Acceleration: Developing the Next-Generation Workforce

NREL's market acceleration capabilities foster and inspire the next generation of water power professionals.

Children experience the 3-D  Visualization Lab.

Marine energy will play a robust role in our nation's evolving power system, and to be successful the water power industry needs new talent to spur innovation and support industry needs.

Powering the Blue Economy Competitions and Prizes

Competitions foster idea development while attracting the next-generation marine energy workforce, and prizes encourage industry to integrate marine technologies into the blue economy markets. These marine energy-related challenges and prizes, which are facilitated by NREL, provide funding to spur participants' innovations.

Marine Energy Collegiate Competition

NREL has launched the Marine Energy Collegiate Competition: Powering the Blue Economy to provide hands-on experience to students preparing for a career in renewable energy. The competition focuses on advancing next-generation marine energy technologies that hold promise for the blue economy, an emerging research area with the potential to provide reliable power from the ocean, reduce costs, innovate sustainably, and help develop the next generation of the water power workforce.

The competition challenges diverse teams of undergraduate and graduate students from multiple disciplines to get real-world experience and find innovative marine energy solutions that could serve as the future of the blue economy. For more information on the competition, rules, and application, see the Marine Energy Collegiate Competition web page. You can also email the Water Competition team with questions.


NREL is helping administer and organize the Waves to Water Prize and Ocean Observing Prize as part of the Powering the Blue Economy Initiative. Both of these prizes are also part of the American-Made Challenges, which incentivize the nation's entrepreneurs to reassert American leadership in the energy marketplace.

The Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office is dedicated to expanding educational opportunities for the next generation of marine energy experts. To help reach students across the country, NREL and Coastal Studies Institute collaborated to create several educational resources for the Waves to Water DRINK Finale, including the Jasmine and the Energizers comic book (request your copy by email), workshops with wave energy experts, and instructional worksheets for building your own small wave energy converter device at home.

Workforce Development

The marine energy industry needs to attract the best and most-qualified undergraduates to creatively expand opportunities and value. Doctorate and post-doctorate-level researchers are needed to further technology innovations, and environmental scientists are necessary to expand development. To fill existing and new operational and maintenance workforce requirements, the marine industry must also attract highly skilled technical workers.

NREL has a long track record of addressing workforce development needs across the renewable energy spectrum. We have implemented successful workforce-focused efforts, created tools to assess long-term workforce needs such as the Jobs and Economic Impact Models, and provided analysis of workforce needs for renewable energy technologies.

NREL also leverages our experience engaging with stakeholder communities to understand barriers to technology adoption to identify issues and drivers, provide feedback to the R&D community, clarify misperceptions, and facilitate market adoption. This work includes a marine energy cable exclusion assessment to determine potential impacts on marine development from undersea telecommunications cables.

STEM Education

Being a nascent technology, the marine energy sector has limited education programs. NREL is working to address this gap by developing educational programs and improving program accessibility (across high school through postgraduate levels) and an increased awareness of marine energy careers (via secondary school, vocational and apprenticeship programs, and undergraduate curricula).

The U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Technologies Office and NREL's Renewable Energy Discovery (REDi) Island offers informational videos about water power technologies and an interactive, educational, three-dimensional learning platform in the form of a virtual renewable energy-powered island.


Elise DeGeorge

Group Manager III, Water Power Group