Marine energy fit to deliver distinct benefits to power grids, U.S. researchers say

Research from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has found that marine energy can provide important benefits to power grids, while complementing less predictable renewable energy generation.

Illustration/Verdant Power’s three-turbine array mounted on TriFrame (Courtesy of U.S. DOE)
Illustration/Verdant Power’s three-turbine array mounted on TriFrame (Courtesy of U.S. DOE)

The research conducted by the U.S. national laboratories has been summarized in a paper titled ‘Grid Value Proposition for Marine Energy – A Preliminary Analysis’.

The report indicates that marine energy can provide important benefits to the grid in the form of energy, capacity, and reserves, as well as baseload power that strengthens the use of energy storage systems while complementing less predictable renewable generation.

A strategy targeting these benefits can become central to industry efforts to reduce costs, grow to scale, and be key to the nation’s grid modernization priorities, according to researchers.

From a resource and technology perspective, marine energy resources can deliver distinct and valuable benefits to different configurations of the grid, whether the bulk system, isolated distribution systems, or remote communities, islands, and microgrids, the report states.

Marine energy resources can also be valuable in increasing technology diversity in a generation portfolio, providing energy where it is otherwise difficult to come by, supporting local resiliency, complementing and being complemented by other resources including solar, wind, and energy storage, and avoiding land constraints.

“The value inherent in marine energy is particularly important as traditional energy resources, namely fossil generation, are retired, leaving resource adequacy gaps. Economically meeting these gaps necessitates a diverse portfolio approach, of which marine energy is well placed to help address.

“Through its predictability, marine energy can help support resilience objectives and local loads in locations that have poor renewable alternatives. The situation is ripe for marine energy stakeholders to further advance understanding of the technology in the grid planning community”, the report states.

Accordingly, the researchers have identified the key next steps to be taken by researchers, the marine energy industry and electric grid stakeholders to fully exploit the value marine energy represents to the grid.

They suggest that more information is needed on the availability of detailed generation data, backed by analysis of the complementarity of marine energy with other resources and energy storage, and potential for delivery to coastal loads.

Also, the researchers state the analysis impacts on distribution grids and the value to remote communities and microgrids should be further refined in the future.