Clean energy: The U.S. Energy Department’s priorities for wave, tidal and hydropower resources

clean energy
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The work of the U.S. Energy Department is examined here by the Editor of Open Access Government Jonathan Miles in respect to clean energy and the remarkable potential of wave, tidal and hydropower resources

The U.S. Department of Energy began its life in 1977, but it traces its lineage to the Manhattan Project effort to develop the atomic bomb in World War II and to a number of energy-related programmes that were dispersed throughout various Federal agencies.

At the time of writing, the Department is led by Secretary of Energy Rick Perry who serves as the 14th United States Secretary of Energy. This article will examine some aspect of the Energy Department’s work, with a focus on clean energy, including their support for the development of wave, tidal and hydropower resources.

Clean energy

One area of the U.S. Department of Energy’s work concerns clean energy; indeed, we find out that a revolution of this kind is taking place across America, supported by the steady expansion of the country’s renewable energy sector. We know that the clean energy industry generates hundreds of billions of dollars in economic activity and is expected to continue to grow at a rapid pace during the years ahead. The economic opportunity for the countries that invent, manufacture and export clean energy technologies is tremendous.

We go on to learn that the responsible development of all the U.S.’s rich energy resources will help to ensure the country’s continued leadership in the field of clean energy. The energy resources here include solar, wind, water, geothermal, bioenergy and nuclear. Looking ahead, the Energy Department aims to carry on driving strategic investments in the transition to a cleaner, more secure and domestic energy future


Untapped sources of energy in America include wave, tidal and hydropower resources which have a vast potential to expand electrical generation in the future. As such, the Energy Department is determined to drive forward critical research and development efforts from these clean energy resources.

This policy ambition includes investments in existing hydropower facilities to enable the necessary infrastructure to produce electricity and leading marine and hydrokinetic technology advancements to generate energy from water.

On wave and tidal energy, we know that the efforts of the Water Power Program’s marine and hydrokinetic research and development (R&D) focus on advancing technologies that capture energy from America’s rivers and oceans. In contrast to hydropower, marine and hydrokinetics represent an emerging industry with hundreds of potentially viable technologies. As such, the Program is leading efforts to evaluate technical and economic viability; prove functionality; and generate cost, performance and reliability data for a number of devices.

Also, we are told that marine and hydrokinetic energy technologies convert the energy of waves, rivers, tides and ocean currents into electricity. The Department of Energy’s Marine and Hydrokinetic 101 video reveals how these technologies work and underline some of the Water Power Program’s R&D efforts in this area. This Program consists of three categories: market acceleration and deployment; technology development; plus, resource assessment and characterisation

Research and development

In recent news, we learn that the Energy Department announced $116 million in funding for 263 research and development grants for 184 small businesses in 41 states – including four grants for water power projects. Funded through DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs, Phase I grants enable small businesses to research the technical feasibility innovations that advance the Energy Department’s mission.

One example of the research funded here is for Creare, LLC of Hanover, New Hampshire, who plan to develop a technology for low-cost desalination that concerns the process of removing salt from seawater in coastal regions afflicted with water scarcity by harnessing power from the ocean and tidal currents. Another example is Resolute Marine Energy, Inc. of Boston, Massachusetts, who intend to research a wave energypowered, fresh water production solution that can solve water security problems facing underserved markets in a cost-effective manner. Such small businesses are playing a very important part in spurring innovation and creating jobs in the U.S. economy.

The importance of clean electric power

In closing, it is worth highlighting the that clean electric power is vital to the Energy Department’s aim to meet their interdependent security, economic and environmental
goals. While supporting aggressive emission reductions, the traditional market drivers such as reliability, safety and affordability must be enhanced and maintained, as we are told in Chapter 4 – Advancing Clean Electric Power Technologies. We also find out
how the current portfolio of electric production is characterised and the importance of technological advances to meet energy needs in America.

“The current portfolio of electric production includes a combination of coal, nuclear (with five new reactors under construction), hydro, growing natural gas and rapidly advancing renewable generation sources. Complementing this evolving generation mix, technologies
to enable higher efficiencies, pollution control and carbon capture and storage are essential aspects of the RDD&D portfolio.”

“A combination of flexible technology options will be required to meet increasing power needs in the U.S. and globally. The Quadrennial Technology Review focuses on technological advances to meet U.S. energy needs and challenges, recognising that these also offer opportunities for cooperative research that will expedite the international deployment of these technologies.”

For more information on the Energy Department’s extraordinary range of work, please visit:

Jonathan Miles
Open Access Government


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