US university and national lab join forces for marine energy research

The University of Alaska Fairbanks and the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have signed a five-year collaborative agreement to advance research on marine renewable energy, underwater technology and hydropower generation.

Illustration (Photo: BOEM)

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the university’s Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) will form research teams, pursue joint funding requests and establish joint graduate student research and faculty appointment programs, according to the institutions.

Initial collaborations under the agreement will focus on energy system reliability, aquatic environmental monitoring, innovative underwater technologies and maritime security.

However, future projects may involve using unmanned aerial systems for oil spill and ecosystem restoration monitoring, improving energy efficiency in maritime infrastructure, helping reduce impacts to fish and mammals near marine energy turbines, and using geoinformatics to detect illegal fishing.

The ArcticShark unmanned aerial vehicle will soon be collecting sophisticate atmospheric data over the tundra and sea ice on Alaska’s North Slope in the Arctic Region (Photo: Navmar Applied Science Corp.)

“This agreement grew out of collaboration between individual researchers in both organizations and provides a substantive basis for much greater transregional engagement of our respective capabilities, toolsets and customer bases. It is truly forward-looking in terms of the technologies, insights and workforce that will be needed in the global blue economy,” said George Roe, ACEP Deputy Director.

Jeremy Kasper, director of ACEP’s Alaska Hydrokinetic Energy Research Center, will spearhead the University of Alaska Fairbanks side of the partnership that will tap several facilities at the two research institutions.

PNNL operates the Department of Energy’s only marine research facility, the Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim, Washington, and helps manage a comprehensive Arctic observatory on the North Slope of Alaska as part of DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility.

ACEP’s Alaska Hydrokinetic Energy Research Center conducts applied research on river and ocean energy generation and integration, leveraging the resources available at its Tanana River Test Site near Nenana, Alaska, and the Power Systems Integration Laboratory on the university campus.

Together, these resources provide researchers the ability to test how small electrical grids function while using a wide variety of energy sources.