U.S. national labs get $7.1M to upgrade marine energy testing infrastructure

U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) has awarded funding to seven projects supporting marine energy testing infrastructure upgrades across five national research laboratories.

Illustration/Sandia Lab engineers testing wave energy converter (Photo: Sandia National Laboratories)
Illustration/Sandia Lab engineers testing wave energy converter (Photo: Sandia National Laboratories)

With this investment, the national labs will be poised to support the development and demonstration of marine energy technologies designed at different scales and for different blue economy applications, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The funding was awarded to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL).

The project selections were made as a result of a competitive call to the national labs designed to invest in lab infrastructure in support of advancing marine energy technologies, issued in December 2020.

Some of the supported projects include NREL’s proposal to o add a six-degree-of-freedom motion platform to the existing Flatirons Campus infrastructure to enable more realistic integrated hybrid marine energy systems research and development (R&D) in a controlled laboratory setting.

The improved capability, for which NREL secured $1.5 million, is expected to bridge the gap between tank testing and component/sub-system validation, and open-ocean testing, resulting in accelerated and more cost and time effective systems validation, risk reduction, and innovative technology maturation.

Also, PNNL was boosted with $3.7 million, to acquire a modern research vessel that will enhance the existing capabilities and enable future research and testing of renewable power from the ocean and other enabling technologies.

All five laboratories will share $500,000 in a joint project to develop a detailed understanding of present and future marine energy testing needs, existing infrastructure and capabilities across the marine energy facility network (emphasizing national lab key assets), and to identify opportunities for new investments in line with WPTO programme goals.

The investment comes as WPTO works to resolve issues related to limited availability of marine energy testing infrastructure. According to WPTO, this is a critical challenge to the advancement of marine energy technologies, as it severely limits the ability of technology developers to quickly assess the performance of devices and components, innovate solutions where necessary, and deploy the next generation of devices.