U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released up to $26.1 million in funding to drive industry-led technology solutions to advance the marine and hydrokinetics (MHK) industry and increase hydropower’s ability to serve as a flexible grid resource.
The Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) will select projects that aim to increase affordability of hydropower and marine energy, strengthen U.S. manufacturing competitiveness, and build on Department’s energy storage initiatives to improve the capability of technologies to deliver value to the grid.
“This opportunity is critical to advancing new water technologies that harness energy from our nation’s rivers and oceans,” said assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Daniel Simmons. “By supporting early-stage research and development, these next-generation water power technologies have the potential to reduce energy costs for American consumers and significantly increase the reliability of our electricity system.”
Marine renewable energy technologies, like wave energy converters (WEC), are still at early stages of development and require thorough design, prototyping, and testing before deployment. The WPTO will provide funding in this area of interest to projects that will drive performance improvements in WEC devices in preparation for open-water testing where wave energy has the greatest energy capture potential and lowest unit costs, DOE explained.
Furthermore, advancing technologies towards commercialization requires ongoing testing at all levels of technological development. The limited availability of testing facilities with proper infrastructure equipped to create real-world wave and current environments to fully characterize their performance and reliability of prototypes is a challenge for the industry.
The WPTO will provide funding to projects under this area of interest to upgrade necessary infrastructure at existing National Marine Renewable Energy Centers (NMRECs) to enable broader industry access and reduce technical barriers to incubating advanced marine and hydrokinetic technologies.
In addition, the funding will help to quantify the flexible capabilities of hydropower and advance operational strategies to increase such flexibility to better serve an evolving grid.
Hydropower has significant capabilities for flexible operation, making it well-positioned to contribute to system reliability and resilience in an evolving electricity system.
Low-head hydropower and hydrokinetic river current energy converter (CEC) technologies have the potential to generate a significant amount of electricity from the nation’s rivers and to support the resiliency of the U.S. electricity system. The WPTO will provide funding to projects that focus on the development of two types of technologies – standard modular hydropower (SMH) and current energy converters (CEC). CEC technologies extract kinetic energy from rivers without the need for a dam or diversion, whereas SMH technologies use dams or other structures with turbines to create head — differences in water elevation — and generate power.