REDi Island: Renewable Energy Discovery Island

NREL offers an educational virtual world powered entirely by renewable energy to show applications for marine energy and hydropower technologies.

Imagine a world where rivers, tides, and waves help power our communities, monitor our environment, and provide clean drinking water. Or better yet, explore that world through the Renewable Energy Discovery (REDi) Island web application.

What Is Renewable Energy Discovery Island?

REDi Island's virtual, renewable-energy-powered world is home to more than a dozen water power waystations. If you're curious about climate change, clean energy, or the vast power flowing in the world's rivers and oceans, then REDi Island is for you.

The REDi Island mission is to:

  • Engage in clean energy science
  • Educate tomorrow's energy innovators
  • Inspire a renewable energy revolution.

Teachers can incorporate this virtual exploration tool into courses on climate change, renewable energy, and more. Students from elementary through graduate school can discover the many exciting careers available in water power. Anyone can learn what water power could do for their communities—from remote, coastal, or island villages to farmlands and even urban hubs.

REDi Island is part of NREL's water power outreach and education efforts to support the next generation of the renewable energy workforce in hydropower and advance the future of marine energy. The lab's water power researchers, who advance research and development of the kind of marine energy and hydropower technologies depicted in these videos, helped explain the basic science behind how the ocean and river works to power REDi Island.

Created by NREL, the REDi Island initiative is fully funded by the U.S Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Water Power Technologies Office and developed by IKM 3D's three-dimensional visualization and software development specialists.

Explore REDi Island

Watch as farms grow food with power from river currents; explore a city that runs on clean, steady hydropower; and see how ocean waves provide energy to purify water, ramp up research, and protect vulnerable ecosystems. Explore the playlist to start your REDi Island journey at one of six water-powered ports described below.

An illustration of a connected network of pipes and tubes in a room as viewed from above with no roof.
REDi Island's Desalination Station. Visualization from IKM 3D

Over the next 10 years, 40 U.S. states expect to see water shortages in at least part of their land. But if traditional sources dry up, drought-stricken areas could lean on nontraditional sources, such as wastewater and salt water, to boost their supplies. To do that, those states will need cost-effective desalination plants, which filter contaminants out of water—often saving energy in the process.

Speaking of energy, some water treatment systems, including REDi Island's Desalination Station, could create drinking water with the clean power from ocean waves. For remote villages, island communities, and disaster recovery areas, wave-powered desalination could be valuable to build resiliency and get vital resources even during a crisis.

Visit Desalination Station to learn more.

A computer visualization of water flowing down tubes and through a building from a reservoir on a mountain to one in a valley.
REDi Island's Hydro Heights. Visualization from IKM 3D

Power failures increasingly affect people across our warming world, shutting off vital air conditioning, air purifiers, and oxygen machines. But one of the world's oldest forms of energy storage, pumped storage hydropower, could help prevent outages caused by heatwaves, hurricanes, or cyberattacks. Plants such as the one at Hydro Heights can help keep clean energy flowing and build more resilient communities.

Pumped storage hydropower plants are made by connecting two reservoirs, one at a higher altitude than the other, and generate power as water moves down from one to the other (discharge), passing through a turbine. The system also requires power as it pumps water back into the upper reservoir (recharge), where it is stored in the upper reservoir for future use. When demand increases, that water is released down through a turbine, which spins a generator and pumps energy back into the grid.

Explore pumped storage hydropower in action at Hydro Heights.

A computer visualization showing, from the side, a water outlet through a dam.
REDi Island's Hydro Hollow. Visualization from IKM 3D

Even century-old technologies, like hydropower, can play a role in a next-generation power grid. In fact, hydropower's flexible, reliable, on-demand energy will be especially valuable for a grid that runs on more variable renewable energy sources, such as solar power and wind energy. When energy demand exceeds supply, hydropower facilities, such as REDi Island's Hydro Hollow, can quickly generate clean energy—at affordable prices, too.

For example, Hydro Hollow's conventional dam can store water until REDi Island's city dwellers need more power. Then, that water is released, spinning a turbine, which runs a generator, sending electricity to the main power grid. Once energy demand slows, Hydro Hollow can rest, reserving water for when it's needed most.

Hydropower may be old, but it's perhaps more necessary than ever. Today, the hydropower industry is growing and adding many well-paying, diverse jobs in manufacturing, utilities, professional and business services, construction, trade and transportation, energy systems, water management, environmental science, welding, machinery, and more.

Visit Hydro Hollow to learn more.

A computer visual of a buoy in the ocean cut open to see the inside.
REDi Island's Navigation Network. Visualization from IKM 3D

The world's oceans are increasingly used for commerce and recreation. But these waters are also home to about a million species. To promote international trade and shipping while protecting fragile marine ecosystems, we need ocean-bound technologies that can steer vessels away from nautical hazards or protected areas, such as shallow coastal reefs.

As a bonus, these navigation technologies can run on clean ocean energy, too. Bobbing buoys can transform the energy from waves into electricity to power sensors. When those sensors detect a ship, the buoy can send a message to warn the crew of the reef nearby.

Visit Navigation Network to explore this early-warning system in action.

A computer visual of a buoy with solar panels and antennae floating in the ocean.
REDi Island's Research Reef. Visualization from IKM 3D

Over 80% of the Earth's oceans are unmapped and rarely monitored. As climate change alters these waters, potentially threatening marine wildlife and creating bigger tropical storms, ocean monitoring is becoming even more important.

At Research Reef, scientists can both study and protect the ocean and our climate with wave-powered ocean monitoring technologies. There, wave energy converters—which transform ocean waves into clean electricity—power sensors that observe everything from above-water atmospheric conditions to below-water ocean environments, helping scientists keep track of the health of wildlife populations and their ecosystems without contributing to climate change.

Visit Research Reef to learn more.

A computer visual of an island overlain with icons of energy flow from water to batteries to houses.
REDi Island's Tidal Town. Visualization from IKM 3D

Around the world, tides carry a predictable, steady, clean source of energy through our rivers and oceans. In the United States, tidal energy has the potential to power up to 21 million homes (about 15% of the country's total number of houses).

Tidal energy technologies, such as those deployed at Tidal Town, could be valuable for coastal and remote communities. Often more isolated from the national grid, these communities tend to pay higher energy prices and experience more extreme weather-induced outages. Soon, tidal turbines could generate local, affordable, clean electricity for such isolated communities or even help decarbonize the nation's power grid.

Visit Tidal Town to learn more.


Explore additional marine energy educational resource materials.

Explore additional hydropower educational resource materials.

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