U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Water Power Program
Research and Development
The Water Power Program's research and development (R&D) efforts focus on improving the performance, lowering the cost, and accelerating the deployment of cutting-edge technologies that generate renewable, environmentally responsible, and cost-effective electricity from the nation's water resources.
Water power is currently the nation's largest source of clean, domestic, renewable energy, and holds significant promise for helping the United States meet its growing energy demand. The Water Power Program makes targeted investments in projects that produce advanced water power technologies, as well as accelerate their adoption in the marketplace. The program carries these activities out in partnership with industry, academia, national laboratories, and other federal agencies.
The program's R&D efforts fall under two broad categories: hydropower and marine and hydrokinetic. The program also sponsors analyses to help determine the future electricity production potential of both hydropower and marine and hydrokinetic technologies.
To learn more about how hydropower or marine and hydrokinetic technologies work, please see the Hydropower 101 and Marine and Hydrokinetic 101 videos.
Hydropower is a relatively mature industry that has been generating electricity since the 1880s. Hydropower technologies capture flowing water—using a dam or other type of diversion structure—to create energy that can be captured—via a turbine—to generate electricity. Over the last decade, hydropower has provided approximately 7% of the United States' electricity on average and more than 70% of clean, renewable electricity output annually.
The marine and hydrokinetic industry is a newly emerging field that only has a handful of demonstration projects in U.S. waters. Marine and hydrokinetic technologies capture energy from oceans and rivers—including waves, tides, ocean currents, free-flowing rivers, streams, and ocean thermal gradients—to generate electricity. Although these technologies are at a very early stage of development, they hold significant promise for adding to our nation's renewable energy portfolio.
The Water Power Program funds analysis to assess the total amount of recoverable energy that can be obtained and converted into electricity from hydropower and marine and hydrokinetic resources. The program has a vision of hydropower and marine and hydrokinetic energy technologies meeting 15% of the nation's electricity needs by 2030.