Submarine Hydrokinetic And Riverine Kilo-megawatt Systems

Graphic of hydrokinetic turbines representing ARPA-E's SHARKS Program

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Program Description:

SHARKS seeks to develop new technical pathways to design economically competitive Hydrokinetic Turbines (HKT) for tidal and riverine currents. These renewable energy resources are highly reliable, forecastable, and typically co-located with demand centers. HKTs are suited for both micro-grids that supply energy to remote communities without grid connections and utility-scale grid-connected applications. Despite these attractive qualities, current HKTs are too expensive for deployment due to technical challenges and harsh operational environments. This program seeks to fund new holistic HKT designs to reduce significantly their levelized cost of energy (LCOE). SHARKS encourages the application of control co-design (CCD), co-design (CD), and designing for operation and maintenance (DFO) methodologies. These three methodologies require a wide range of disciplines to work concurrently, as opposed to sequentially, during the concept design stage. In addition, technical and environmental challenges inhibiting the convergence of HKT designs require expertise from various scientific and engineering fields, necessitating the use of multi-disciplinary teams. These teams may include experts in hydrodynamics, mechanical design, materials, hydro-structural interactions, turbine and/or turbine array efficiency, system-level control solutions, power electronics, grid connection, numerical modeling, computer tools, and experimental validation. Projects will need to reduce the LCOE through multiple approaches, including increasing generation efficiency, increasing rotor area per unit of equivalent mass, lowering operation and maintenance costs, minimizing potential negative impacts on the surrounding environment, and maximizing system reliability among others. SHARKS is expected to span three years with $38M in funded projects.

Innovation Need:

Significant technical and environmental barriers make current HKT systems prohibitively expensive. Hydrokinetic energy systems’ low technical readiness calls for a system-level approach that will include hydrodynamics, structural dynamics, control systems, power electronics, grid connections, and performance optimization, while at the same time minimizing potential negative environmental effects and maximizing system reliability. The challenging, multi-disciplinary nature of this design space means many systems haven’t moved beyond the theoretical design phase. This program aims to use CCD, CD, and DFO methodologies to develop radically new HKTs for tidal and riverine applications that have drastic reductions in LCOE. This program aims to address industry-wide limitations to provide economical hydrokinetic power at micro-grid and utility-scale.

Potential Impact:

Hydrokinetic energy is an abundant renewable energy source that presents unique opportunities and benefits.


Diverse renewable energy resources can boost grid resiliency and reduce infrastructure vulnerabilities.


HKTs, used to capture energy from tides, rivers, canals, and ocean currents, optimize a clean, renewable power source that could help reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.


Hydrokinetic energy has applications beyond solely providing power to electrical grids. It is ideally suited to the emerging technologies and markets built upon ocean- and riverine-based infrastructure, including climatological observation, aquaculture, desalination, ocean floor and seawater mining, disaster recovery, powering isolated communities, and autonomous underwater vehicle support.


Program Director:
Dr. Mario Garcia-Sanz
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