The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office’s (WPTO) initial investment in marine energy software was driven by needs identified over a decade ago . WPTO-funded research was first launched because of a U.S. congressional mandate that called for the DOE to officially research marine energy technologies, which also established the DOE WPTO in 2008. A congressional mandate requested the WPTO to evaluate a variety of marine energy devices, establish baseline levelized cost of energy estimates, and provide an overall report to Congress. This congressional mandate led to the Reference Model Project (RMP), for which WPTO funded a national multi-laboratory team to develop these reference models, based on state-of-the-art designs of six marine energy converter archetypes that consisted of three current energy converters and three wave energy converters (WEC). Each device was designed to operate for a specific marine resource, thus allowing the devices to serve as reference models for future studies. The RMP congressional report cited the need for improved marine energy software to handle a variety of device designs, as well as a need to standardize performance outputs. Without validated software packages and established metrics, information presented to the WPTO by technology developers could be incorrect or inaccurate and result in misleading conclusions. The recommendation to coordinate WPTO investment in software for numerical modeling and analysis was given a high priority because it would directly fill needs at the time, and focused funding would amplify impact. By sponsoring software development, WPTO would provide industry developers, university researchers, and national laboratories software that could be used, customized, and advanced, thus supporting the overall advancement of marine energy.
In parallel with marine energy road-mapping efforts, lessons learned from the RMP led to WPTO’s initial investment in software development. In 2012, Cardinal Engineering led the first software needs assessment based on software development gaps identified during the RMP. Cardinal Engineering collaborated with Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to conduct a needs assessment for modeling tools and generated a report describing the software landscape at the time, which identified areas of need . The report noted that software was often developed without formal coordination or collaboration, from a variety of funding sources, and did not have standardized inputs and outputs. The Cardinal Engineering report identified nine significant industry needs based on the software landscape in 2012. These industry needs directly led to the first wave of software development.
Over the past decade the marine energy industry has continued to grow and evolve, with new concepts and technologies constantly being pursued. Additionally, the field of computing is vastly different today than it was 5 or 10 years ago. By utilizing advanced software and hardware architectures, like graphics processing units as well as parallelization and high-performance computing resources, software can produce higher quality or a higher volume of outputs. These software and hardware resources can enable the marine energy community to exploit computational advancements from other research fields, including machine learning, differentiable programming, and controls co-design. Better integration of existing software and development of potential new software is necessary to take advantage of trends in modern computing and respond to the current and future needs of the marine energy community.
After a decade of U.S. and international marine energy software development, WPTO decided to launch the Next-Generation Marine Energy Software effort to achieve the following goals:
- Catalog the available numerical tools and provide this information to the marine energy community.
- Develop an informed road map for future WPTO software investments. The primary objective of the Next-Generation Marine Energy Software effort is to prioritize the development of the next-generation of WPTO-sponsored software that will support the current and future needs of the evolving marine energy industry.
To better understand the present marine energy software landscape and industry needs, WPTO tasked SNL and NREL to update the needs assessment by identifying existing software gaps, identifying software needs, and assisting WPTO in planning the next wave of marine energy software development. The proposed effort involved cataloguing and analyzing the available data on existing software related to marine energy. The marine energy software landscape has vastly changed from a decade ago. As of early 2023, there are nearly 230 different software packages utilized by the marine energy sector (see the Marine Energy Software knowledge hub on PRIMRE.org), compared to a decade ago when the Cardinal Engineering survey identified approximately 40 software packages. In 2012, the marine energy software landscape was captured in two tables, whereas the current marine energy software landscape required development of a software database to collect and categorize software. For more information about the marine energy software database developed for this landscaping study, see Appendix A: Marine Energy Software Database.
Establishing a software database was necessary due to the breadth of the present day software survey compared to the survey from 2012 . The 2012 survey was completed by cataloguing the software used at SNL and NREL, and for the RMP. The present day software landscape expanded upon the 2012 survey to include publicly available information on marine energy software and establish categories of interest (refer to Appendix A for details). Care should be taken when comparing this present day landscape to the survey from 2012, since they differ in approach and scope. However, they can be used to understand how WPTO’s investments have contributed to the present day marine energy software landscape.
An overview of the updated marine energy software landscape is in Figure 1, shown as a tree map. A tree map is a visual way to display hierarchical data, where each rectangle’s area is proportional to the corresponding data value. The tree map highlights that the marine energy software landscape is heavily focused on the categories shown in Table 14. For more information, refer to the Software Landscape section.