How NREL researchers are catalysing changes in our ocean and climate | News

Celebrate National Ocean Month with a closer look at NREL’s hydropower champions

Underwater image of fish swimming next to corals with illustrations of the Earth and renewable energy icons

Every year on World Oceans Day, we are reminded that a healthy climate requires healthy oceans – and vice versa – and any action to transition to clean energy must take Earth’s oceans into account.

This year’s World Oceans Day focused on “catalysing action for our ocean and climate.” Naturally, scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are already working to address some of the challenges set by World Oceans Day organizers: making the most of all existing climate solutions, accelerating a just transition to clean and renewable energy, and creating solutions at local, national and international levels , based on the best science.

NREL conducts research across the entire hydropower spectrum, from work to develop marine renewable energy technologies to projects to support the growing workforce needed to support ocean renewable energy sources. Here are some examples of what NREL researchers are like catalyzing action for our ocean and climate.

Three people working on a boat in the ocean

Ben Maurer enjoys his work on the water. Photo: Ben Maurer, NREL

By targeting plastic pollution in rivers, we can intercept it before it has a profound impact on our ecosystems, communities or the ocean.”

—NREL researcher Ben Maurer, who serves as principal investigator for the Waterborne Plastics Assessment and Collection Technologies (WaterPACT) project

Read how WaterPACT is helping reduce ocean plastic pollution before it happens.

For specific communities in specific places, marine energy can be a game changer.”

— NREL graduate intern Miguel González-Montijo on how marine hydrokinetic energy can help small towns in his native Puerto Rico build energy resilience

See how González-Montijo uses additive manufacturing to design more resilient turbine components.

Two researchers in helmets in the laboratory

Miguel González-Montijo collaborates with Paul Murdy, the principal investigator of his study.
Photo: Joe DelNero, NREL

Two people viewing data on a computer screen at a trade show

Jennifer Daw (right) demonstrates hydropower career maps. Photo: Werner Slocum, NREL

There is a home for everyone in hydropower.”

—Jennifer Daw, senior researcher and group manager at NREL, who is spearheading a number of initiatives to strengthen the hydropower workforce

See how NREL’s new career maps help job seekers understand the wide range of careers available in the hydropower industry.

Something was bothering me about climate change… I really wanted to be a part of finding some solution.”

—NREL researcher Alec Schnabel on how his skills and passions led him to work in the marine energy industry

Read Alec’s profile below the surface to learn more about how his power electronics expertise is impacting marine energy technology.

Alec Schnabel faces marine energy technology

Alec Schnabel works with a power electronics kit. Photo: Alec Schnabel, NREL

Three students discuss the poster

Participants of the collegiate competition discuss hydropower solutions. Photo: Taylor Mankle, NREL

We designed these competitions for students to challenge themselves, develop their professional skills, and take a closer look at how hydropower can play a key role in our clean energy future.”

— Elise DeGeorge, senior project leader at NREL, on collegiate competitions for hydropower and marine energy

Find out more about the winners of the latest competitions and the 36 teams that will network, build CVs and compete for money in events in 2025.

When times get tough, it’s good to stay flexible.”

—James Niffenegger on hexagonal distributed embedded energy converters (or hexDEEC) and their potential applications in marine energy

See how NREL’s patented hexDEEC technology can enable flexible marine energy technologies that can withstand the ocean’s unforgiving conditions.

James Niffenegger is working on a device that uses marine energy

James Niffenegger works on flexible marine energy technologies. Photo: Joe DelNero, NREL

Happy National Ocean Month from all of us at NREL!

Learn more about NREL hydropower research and subscribe to the NREL Hydropower Newsletter, Current, to keep up to date with exciting developments in marine energy and hydropower research.