Skip to Main Content U.S. Department of Energy
Waterpower banner

Water Power Research

Humans have harnessed energy from water for centuries. In the U.S., hydropower was the first source of electricity and has formed the backbone of our electric infrastructure. Today, scientists and engineers all around the world are researching ways to harness the energy behind waves, currents, and tides to develop safe marine and hydrokinetic energy systems.

At PNNL, we are working to develop more efficient and sustainable systems used to harness water power. From our fish-friendly hydropower turbines and award winning fish tags used to ensure safe fish passage through hydroelectric dams, to our wave energy characterization work and advanced sensor technologies used to improve marine and hydrokinetic energy systems, PNNL is committed to supporting the widespread and environmentally-sound deployment of water power projects around the world.

Hydropower Research

Sustainable, Low-Impact Energy
Hydropower provides 6-8% of the United States electricity, and the U.S. Department of Energy sees plenty of room for potential growth. But it isn't a matter of just generating more power. To be successful in the future, new and existing hydropower systems need to be more efficient, more cost effective, and weave environmental sustainability into every facet, from turbine design to operations.

More than 40 researchers within PNNL's hydrology, ecology, coastal sciences, materials, and power systems groups work to improve the efficiency and environmental performance of the nation's largest source of renewable energy.

Marine & Hydrokinetic Energy Research

Harnessing Waves, Currents, and Tides
Marine and hydrokinetic energy (MHK) technologies generate energy from waves, currents, and tides. According to the Ocean Energy Systems, the world oceans have the technical potential to produce 9,100,000 gigawatt hours annually. MHK is a huge, largely untapped energy resource with a predictable nature that can be used by power grid managers to offset more variable resources such as wind and solar power. On a regional scale, widespread MHK deployment would contribute to job growth in coastal communities, and provide a localized source of power in isolated coastal regions and areas susceptible to extreme events, such as hurricanes, flooding, and storm surge.

PNNL’s longstanding partnerships with Pacific Northwest industries, agencies, and MHK developers allows us to collaborate, share insights, and ultimately spur the development of MHK technologies. Our Marine Sciences Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy’s only coastal laboratory, provides researchers from around the world a place to test and improve their technologies.

Water Power Research