The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released two nationwide resource assessments showing that waves and tidal currents off the nation’s coasts could contribute significantly to the United States’ total annual electricity production, further diversify the nation’s energy portfolio, and provide renewable energy to coastal cities and communities. These new wave and tidal resource assessments, combined with ongoing analyses of the technologies and other resource assessments, show water power—including conventional hydropower and wave, tidal, and other water-power resource—can potentially provide 15 percent of our nation’s electricity by 2030.

According to the DOE, the reports represent the most rigorous analysis undertaken to date to accurately define the magnitude and location of America’s ocean energy resources. The information in these resource assessments can help to further develop the country’s significant ocean energy resources, create new industries and new jobs in America, and secure U.S. leadership in an emerging global market.
The United States uses about 4,000 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity per year. The DOE estimates that the maximum theoretical electric generation that waves and tidal currents could produce is approximately 1,420 TWh per year, approximately one-third of the nation’s total annual electricity usage. Although not all of the resource potential identified in these assessments can realistically be developed, the results still represent major opportunities for new water-power development in the United States, highlighting specific opportunities to expand on the 6 percent of the nation’s electricity already generated from renewable hydropower resources.

The two reports—“Mapping and Assessment of the United States Ocean Wave Energy Resource” and “Assessment of Energy Production Potential from Tidal Streams in the United States”—calculate the maximum kinetic energy available from waves and tides off U.S. coasts that could be used for future energy production, and which represent largely untapped opportunities for renewable-energy development in the United States.

The West Coast, including Alaska and Hawaii, has especially high potential for wave-energy development, while significant opportunities for wave energy also exist along the East Coast. Additionally, parts of both the West and East Coasts have strong tides that could be tapped to produce energy.