Marine Energy Conversion (MEC) technologies (a.k.a. Marine Hydrokinetic (MHK)) development is following a similar trajectory to the wind energy industry towards commercialization. Over the last several decades, installed capacity for wind energy systems have seen tremendous growth throughout the world. Wind technologies have moved from experimental to full-scale systems deployment at scales required to make the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) competitive. Although MEC technologies are still at relatively nascent stages of development, they are expected to follow a similar development trend throughout the U.S., Europe and beyond. These technologies, spanning a wide range archetypes and sizes, range from emergent floating bouy-like devices that transfer wave motions to mechanical power and electricity, to submerged marine turbines, like wind turbines that extract kinetic energy from currents, are at the forefront of exploiting potentially vast energy resources found in waves and tidal currents. A key challenge for this suite of MEC technologies will be to reduce the LCOE to ranges that seek to be cost competitive.
A U.S. Department of Energy techno-economic assessment study of marine energy technologies, including several current energy converter (CEC) point designs and several wave energy converter (WEC) point designs , demonstrated that levelized costs are at least an order of magnitude higher than those for solar and wind. This study identified cost drivers and cost-reduction pathways to make marine energy technologies more economically competitive through innovations, e.g., advanced control strategies and advanced materials. WEC point designs, in particular, have relatively high levelized costs because, in contrast to CEC point designs that are similar to wind turbine technologies, they have no technology analogues. More recent work to improve the performance of WECs via advanced control strategies has shown the potential to greatly increase the amount of energy produced by WECs . While these advanced control studies do not yet consider the full complexity of WEC power generation, some rough initial projections for the potential of improved control strategies to reduce LCOE of WECs can be made. Addtionally, the general effect of materials and coatings on LCOE presents an opportunity to determine their impact on the manufacture, operation, maintenance, and repair of devices used in the marine environment. By using the proper material and coatings, savings may be found in weight reductions through light weight durable materials along with improved resistance to biofouling and corrosion [3, 4].