Triton Stories

Understanding Changes in Ocean Habitats to Remove Barriers to Marine Renewable Energy Deployment
With Lenaig Hemery

Marine renewable energy (MRE) harnesses the power of tides, waves, and ocean currents to generate electricity using devices, such as wave energy converters and tidal turbines. Recent stories of blackouts in California and impacts of hurricanes in the southern U.S. states might suggest these renewable energy devices should be widely used in our coastal communities to generate clean, reliable energy. So why aren’t they?

Before implementing MRE devices along our coastlines, it is important to understand how their presence might impact the environment. A better understanding of physical systems, ecosystems, and the diverse species of marine animals that live on the ocean floor and swim in the waters around a proposed development area is crucial. The U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Technologies Office’s Triton Initiative, through the Triton Field Trials (TFiT) campaign, is creating recommendations for the use of environmental monitoring technology and methods to study... read more


Diving into marine renewable energy research
With John Vavrinec 

Have you ever thought about being a professional scientific diver? Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) dive officer, John Vavrinec, shares his experience as a scientific research diver working to support the Triton Initiative. The mission: to enhance environmental monitoring for marine renewable energy (MRE).

Vavrinec is a senior staff scientist at PNNL’s Marine and Coastal Research Laboratory (MCRL) who specializes in marine ecology. His winding path to MCRL started with an interest in aeronautical engineering and terrestrial biology which evolved into earning a PhD in Oceanography at the University of Maine after falling in love with diving. He worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle for several years before coming to Sequim, WA where he has spent 15 years as a researcher and diver studying marine and coastal environments. As a researcher, he primarily studies marine species and ecosystems, performing habitat assessments and large-scale restoration... read more.


Envisioning a future with marine energy: how predictive modeling informs decision making 
With Kate Buenau

Marine renewable energy (MRE) research doesn’t always happen from a boat or in a laboratory; much of this impactful work is conducted in front of a computer screen. Predictive modeling has become an integral part of understanding the environmental effects of MRE deployments and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)'s ecological modeling expert, Kate Buenau, is bringing her modeling prowess to the Triton Initiative.   

Buenau is a senior research scientist who specializes in quantitative ecology and modeling for the Coastal Sciences Division at PNNL’s Marine Sciences Laboratory (MSL). She joined MSL in 2009 after earning a PhD in ecology and marine biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. For the past 11 years, Buenau has primarily worked on large-scale ecosystem restoration projects, including recovery programs for the Missouri River and the Columbia River Estuary, and habitat restoration in Puget more.


Researching the ocean is more difficult than studying space
Technical development with Nolann Williams 

After a short period of time at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)’s Marine Sciences Laboratory (MSL), Nolann Williams quickly realized that engineering for outer space applications—which deals with strange phenomena like tin whiskers, vacuum arcs, and the inability to retrieve projects once in orbit—was easier than marine engineering.

Meet Nolann Williams an electrical engineer who joined in June 2019 and has spent the past year supporting the Triton Initiative, which focuses on developing and testing environmental monitoring technology and methods to remove barriers associated to marine renewable energy (MRE) installations. Specifically, Williams’s contributions propelled technology development for companies awarded U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funding. Supported by the DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) through the Triton Initiative, these projects more.