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About National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL, is the only U.S. national laboratory solely dedicated to advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency. As part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Small Business Vouchers Pilot, NREL will connect water power innovators across the country with NREL scientists, engineers, and facilitate access to world-class testing facilities.

NREL's Water Power program leverages decades of experience in wind energy, marine energy and distributed and hybrid energy system R&D, along with world-class testing infrastructure to help increase performance and reliability and lower the cost of energy of marine energy and hydropower technologies.

With NREL, partners can:

  • Collaborate with experts to develop innovative technologies and accelerate time to market
  • Characterize and validate components and systems to improve performance and reduce risk
  • Characterize grid connection, response, and ancillary service potential
  • Understand potential economic performance and drivers.


Marine and Hydrokinetic Specific Capabilities

Apply NREL Water Power team expertise in numerical modeling, control systems, and electric and mechanical design to accelerate the development of robust and efficient MHK devices and components:

  • Wave and tidal device modeling and design capabilities under both operational and extreme conditions utilizing a suite of in-house developed codes, CFD, finite element structural analysis and control system design tools.
  • Mechanical and electrical testing infrastructure for design validation and improvement, system integration assessment, control systems optimization, reliability assessment and characterization and optimization of system grid response under different grid conditions.
  • The Modular Ocean Instrumentation System (MOIS) to collect valuable open-water test data.
  • Model the impacts of design drivers such as water depth, distance to shore, mooring system design, electric system design, and installation, operations & maintenance strategies on LCOE.

Hydropower Specific Capabilities

NREL expertise has been applied to hydropower technologies to assess economic viability, deployment potential, grid services, and development site feasibility. Evolving small hydropower generation systems can also benefit from NREL's integrated testing and analysis capabilities.

  • Assess feasibility of hydropower and pumped storage hydropower development for grid interconnected or isolated power systems, supporting deployment.
  • Testing horizontally oriented hydropower systems to validate and improve designs, optimize control systems, assess reliability, and to characterize and optimize system grid response and control under different grid conditions.
  • Optimize hydropower output under varying grid conditions and projected climate scenarios by coupling the modeling of river basins with power system simulation.


NREL provides researchers with access to state-of-the-art equipment for testing a wide spectrum of water power technologies. The NWTC has performed over 200 full-scale field, structural, electrical, and drivetrain tests.

NREL facilities include: