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Resource Characterization

NREL collaborates with industry and other national labs to deliver the resource data necessary to design the next generation of marine energy technologies.

Researchers standing in front of marine energy equipment.

Marine energy and hydropower technologies will play a robust role in our nation's evolving power system.


  • Wave energy resource measurements
  • Tidal energy resource and turbulence measurements
  • Marine energy resource assessment standards development
  • Marine energy project feasibility assessments

Resource Characterization Measurements

Motivated by its pioneering work on the importance of turbulence in wind turbine design, NREL's resource characterization team of oceanographers, engineers, and data scientists work to measure the resource details important to designing the next generation of marine energy devices. We develop new measurement systems that resolve the statistics of marine resources that are important for device design.

  • In tidal and current energy, this includes advanced turbulence measurement platforms and data-processing techniques.
  • In wave energy, we deploy high-fidelity wave measurement buoys.

These systems are deployed at locations where early-market projects will be deployed and where model validation data are sparse.

The data are made publicly available via the Marine Energy Atlas, the Marine and Hydrokinetic Data Repository, and via project partners such as the Coastal Data Information Program.

  • Technology developers for designing the next generation of robust and efficient marine energy devices
  • Project developers for identifying optimate project sites
  • The public for understanding the marine energy opportunity locally and at national scales.

Standards Development

NREL contributes to the development of International Electrotechnical Commission standards on marine energy (Technical Committee 114). We contribute actively to the resource assessment and power performance standards as well as the design and terminology standards. NREL plays a key role in ensuring that the needs of the U.S. marine industry are met by the standards and that the standards adhere to the highest levels of scientific and engineering best practices.


Cook Inlet Tidal Energy Resource Characterization Effort, NREL Fact Sheet (2021)

Marine Energy in the United States: An Overview of Opportunities, NREL Technical Report (2021)

Turbulence Measurements from Compliant Moorings. Part II: Motion Correction, Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology (2017)

Marine Hydrokinetic Energy Site Identification and Ranking Methodology Part I: Wave Energy, NREL Technical Report (2017)

Marine Hydrokinetic Energy Site Identification and Ranking Methodology Part II: Tidal Energy, NREL Technical Report (2016)


Levi Kilcher

Senior Scientist