Keynote Address - Opening General Session

Renewable Wave and Tidal Ocean Energy: The Status of Research and Development
Presented by Dr. Robert W. Thresher, Research Fellow, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Monday, May 22, 2017 | 10:30 am-Noon
Hyatt Regency Atlanta - Centennial Ballroom 
More than 50 percent of the American population lives within 50 miles of the coast, which means that a cost-effective ocean energy industry could provide a substantial amount of electricity for the nation. Over the past several years, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has invested heavily in this new and innovative industry, a nascent technology sector that is a great example of American’s innovation capabilities. This new industry is producing novel technologies that have the potential to make a significant future contribution to our nation’s energy independence.

At this session, an overview of these new ocean energy technologies will be presented, covering current research and development activities being undertaken by the DOE and its laboratories, as well as industry developments in wave and tidal technologies. The fundamental objective of these research efforts is to improve device reliability and performance, as well as the economic viability of the differing technology types.

This presentation will review the fundamentals of wave and tidal energy resources assessment and give a first estimate of the U.S. wave and tidal resources. There are a number of unique and innovative configurations for wave and tidal devices that are currently being explored. The machine configurations and methods for converting the energy in wave and tidal flows into electricity will be described, as well as the numerical computation methods being used to estimate the energy capture and mechanical loading for these converters. Some of the current research challenges faced by ocean energy developers will be reviewed. While the focus will be on research and development activities in the U.S., important global activities will also be included. Wave energy converter developers have a number of new devices under test, both in the ocean and in testing laboratories, and examples of this testing will be presented.

A brief overview of the ongoing research into environmental interactions between these innovative new machines and marine species will also be included. In general, stakeholders and regulators are concerned about the potential impacts of these largely unknown technologies on marine species already under stress. There is also a concern caused by a new use of ocean space, when there are already many other users, as well as the physical effects caused by the introduction of an energy extraction device.

The DOE recently completed a competition called the Wave Energy Prize. Its goal was to encourage the development of more efficient WEC devices that greatly improve the energy captured from ocean waves, which, in turn, would reduce the cost of wave energy, making it more competitive with other energy solutions. In addition, the prize was designed to increase the diversity of organizations involved in wave energy converter technology development, while motivating and inspiring existing stakeholders. The attributes of the winning devices will be briefly described. In summary, an informative overview of this innovative new energy generation technology will be introduced.