The US Department of Energy (DOE) has recently announced funding of over $3.5 million dedicated to 18 innovative projects in the fields of hydropower and marine energy. These projects, selected as part of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, aim to foster advancements in water power technologies across the nation.

Under the guidance of DOE's Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO), these small business-led initiatives will contribute to the realization of the Biden administration's ambitious objectives of achieving a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and establishing a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050. The chosen projects consist of nine focused on hydropower and another nine focused on marine energy.

The 18 projects are:

Topic: Innovations in Water Data​

  • Fathom Science LLC, Raleigh, North Carolina: Developing a Novel Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Approach for High-Efficiency, High-Fidelity Marine Wave Energy Characterization and Assessment for Powering the Blue Economy (PBE) – This project will develop a novel artificial intelligence/machine learning framework to deliver high-efficiency and high-resolution wave forecasts to support blue economy activities such as ocean observation in the coastal regions of the U.S. East Coast, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea.
  • Geometric Data Analytics Inc, Durham, North Carolina : Sea Surface Shape: Topological Feature Assimilation for Marine Energy Resource Assessment   – This project will use newly available data from the Surface Water and Ocean Topography satellite mission to perform high-resolution analysis of sea surface heights and currents. These results will be used to build maps to help identify sites to harness ocean currents for marine energy.  
  • Grid Modernization Solutions, Salt Lake City, Utah : Water, Power, and Environmental Data Acquisition Protocol – This project will develop an open hydropower data protocol to improve the availability and quality of regional and global hydropower data. This will enable more reliable integration between different systems and cloud-based applications to streamline hydropower industry access to environmental data, forecasts, hydropower information, and power grid metrics.
  • Hedgefog Research Inc, San Pedro, California: Remote Lidar Methane Sensor (RELMS) – This project will test a new technology capable of measuring methane emissions from hydropower reservoirs by transmitting laser beams into the atmosphere and using backscattered light from aerosol particles to measure the concentration of methane. This will help improve the accuracy of measuring greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Ocean Motion Technologies, Inc, San Diego, California: Data Platform Enabling Wave Energy Converter Performance and Sensor Optimization: Wave Energy Converters Impact Wave Data and What to Do About It? – This project aims to build a wave-sensing data platform into an existing advanced ocean wave energy device. This platform will allow small-scale wave energy devices to directly measure wave dynamics, which will enable optimal electricity generation.
  • Upstream PBC, Alameda, California: HydroForecast Long-Term: Improving Hydropower's Resilience to Climate Change through Accurate​ Climate-Scale Streamflow Availability Estimates – This project will combine a streamflow prediction modeling system with flexible and scalable data architecture to generate more accurate water supply projections through the year 2100. The resulting projections will help water managers process and transform a vast array of data into actionable information.

Topic: Advanced Coatings and Geomembrane Liners

  • Achiewell LLC, Hatfield, Pennsylvania: Photocured Hydropower Repair Coatings​ – Corrosion is a major problem affecting hydropower infrastructure. Repeated exposure to water can cause equipment to deteriorate or fail, costing millions to replace. Current corrosion-resistance technologies often require multiple coatings, long cure times, and temperature-dependent curing. This project aims to develop a photocurable resin to provide better corrosion resistance than current technologies, which will help reduce the risk of structural deterioration.
  • Intelligent Optical Systems, Inc, Torrance, California: Non-Toxic Biofouling Resistant Coatings for Hydropower Applications – This project will develop a durable, abrasion-resistant coating to prevent mussel attachment to trash racks and intake screens. The result will solve a critical problem for the hydropower industry and mitigate issues for the paper and pulp, fishing, and seawater desalination industries.
  • Nanoionix, LLC, Farmington, Connecticut: Multifunctional Ceramic Antifouling, Erosion- and Corrosion-Resistant Coating for Hydropower Applications​ – Erosion, corrosion, and biofouling (accumulation of mollusks and algae) of critical hydropower components can limit performance and increase costs of a facility, but today’s coatings are generally optimized for only one of these challenges. This project will test if a patented ceramic powder can enhance today’s coatings to prevent erosion, corrosion, and biofouling of a metallic surface simultaneously.
  • River Connectivity Systems, Bainbridge Island, Washington: Advanced Polymeric Geomembrane Designs for Pumped Storage Hydropower Reservoirs​ – Frequent fluctuation of water levels in a pumped storage plant can tax a reservoir embankment and liner more aggressively than a conventional hydropower reservoir. Reservoir liner systems with novel geomembrane layers could offer the advanced functionality needed. This project will conduct a market and feasibility assessment for a multi-layer geomembrane system for pumped storage hydropower plants.

Topic: Identification of Cybersecurity Threats and Research and Development of Mitigation Strategies for Hydropower and Dams’ Operations

  • Fend Incorporated,  Arlington, Virginia: Hydropower and Dam Cybersecurity: Protection and Monitoring Using Next-Generation Data Diodes​ – This project will develop and commercialize an advanced data diode that secures one-way communication of data. Based on feedback from the hydropower industry, the diode’s capabilities will be expanded for application to cellular or satellite links, which will enhance the security of communications used in monitoring and control of remote hydropower plants.  

Topic: Co-Development of Marine Energy Technologies

  • 4D Maker, LLC,  Okemos, Michigan: Design and Prototyping of a Novel Lightweight Wave Energy Converter for Marine Energy Harvesting and Self-Powered Marine Monitoring – This project will develop and prototype a new class of lightweight wave energy converters for short-duration deployment and installation. This energy harvester has the potential to become a convenient and efficient tool for powering marine sensors and other detection and navigation systems.
  • Bladerunner Energy, Inc,  Bend, Oregon: The BladeRunner Solution for Aquaculture Sustainability​ – This project will demonstrate how tidal energy can meet the needs of aquaculture operations in coastal and near-shore zones through a horizontal-axis rotor system (similar to wind turbines) that can adapt to bi-directional tidal currents. The result will encourage more clean, renewable energy by replacing diesel generators.
  • CalWave Power Technologies Inc,  Hercules, California: CalWave xNode ​– This project will enable the “Ocean Internet of Things” through a versatile, adaptable, and resilient ocean observing platform with built-in power generation. The xNode will capture ocean wave energy to power sensors that measure physical, chemical, and biological aspects of the ocean. The xNode’s inflation control and inflatable hull allow for a lightweight device that is easy to handle, ship, and deploy.
  • Triton Systems, Inc,  Chelmsford, Massachusetts: Wave Energy Converter for Off-Shore Aquaculture​ – Offshore aquaculture (fish farms) will require increasingly powerful sources of renewable energy to remain sustainable. This proposal will explore the feasibility of using a wave energy converter to provide clean, renewable energy to aquaculture systems to replace diesel-generated power.

Topic: Marine Energy Supply Chain Development

  • 3U Technologies, LLC, Conroe, Texas: Submarine Cable System Standardization for Remote Community Microgrid Service​ – This project will develop standardized design criteria for marine power transmission cables at micro-grid-level (fewer than 2 megawatts) power requirements. Successful development would remove novel cable costs, which often cripple small, offshore renewable energy projects.  
  • Triton Anchor LLC, Chelmsford, Massachusetts: Marine Energy Supply Chain Development for Mooring Systems​ – This project will develop a transportable, cost-effective, and easily installed anchoring solution for the marine energy industry. Successful development will improve current anchoring supply chain challenges to marine developers, thereby improving costs, time constraints, environmental considerations, and other issues currently hindering commercialization of some marine energy technologies.

Topic: Agricultural Power Decarbonization

Continuous Solutions LLC, Portland, Oregon: Off-Grid Micro Hydropower Units for Agricultural Decarbonization – This project will develop a novel energy recovery solution for harvesting power from water and irrigation pipelines. This project will integrate a modular micro-hydropower generator and smart sensors to optimize water flow and usage for both energy production and irrigation.