A Computer Tool to Control Co-Design Hydrokinetic Energy Systems

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Golden, Colorado
Project Term:
05/24/2021 - 08/17/2024

Critical Need:

Significant technical and environmental barriers make current Hydrokinetic Turbines (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 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. Submarine Hydrokinetic And Riverine Kilo-megawatt Systems (SHARKS) aims to use control co-design (CCD), co-design (CD), and designing for operation and maintenance (DFO) methodologies to develop radically new HKTs for tidal and riverine applications that drastically reduce the levelized cost of energy (LCOE). This program aims to address industry-wide limitations to provide economical hydrokinetic power at micro-grid and utility scale.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will expand its open-source Wind Energy with Integrated Servo-control (WEIS) toolbox to include control co-design capabilities of tidal and riverine hydrokinetic turbines. This new toolbox will enable the conception, design, simulation, and optimization of control co-designed hydrokinetic systems. The toolbox will facilitate innovation in the hydrokinetic turbine industry, allowing for less expensive and more reliable turbines. NREL will work with other SHARKS program participants to ensure the code being developed is valuable to hydrokinetic turbine designers.

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.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Mario Garcia-Sanz
Project Contact:
Thanh Toan Tran
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Colorado State University

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