Triton Stories

Bringing Triton’s Vision to Life 
Project Management with Alicia Amerson  

Scientists and engineers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory  strive to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels by researching ways to implement wave and tidal energy into the U.S. energy portfolio. 

According to the United States Energy Information Administration, the projected wave energy potential off the U.S. coasts is estimated to be ~2.64 trillion kilowatt hours, or 64 percent of our nation’s electricity generation in 2019. The ocean’s waves and tides are some of the most consistent natural phenomena on Earth. Due to gravitational forces of the sun and moon, we can count on tides rising and falling twice a day, occurring with such regularity that they can be predicted decades in advance. Additionally, tides have extremely high energy density compared to other energy resources, which means little energy is wasted in the process of converting tides’ power into electricity. Similarly, the CalWave Wave Energy Test Site in La Jolla, California, claims ocean waves are 20-60 times more... read more


Creating Ears Under Water 
Researching the Effects of Underwater Noise  with Joe Haxel   

Many marine wildlife species, including mammals, fish, and invertebrates, use sound or acoustic signals in the ocean for a variety of life functions, such as communication, foraging, navigation, and reproduction. Maintaining healthy coastal ecosystems includes protecting the acoustic environment for these marine species. Since many marine animals are responsive to noise in

Many marine wildlife species, including mammals, fish, and invertebrates, use sound or acoustic signals in the ocean for a variety of life functions, such as communication, foraging, navigation, and reproduction. Maintaining healthy coastal ecosystems includes protecting the acoustic environment for these marine species. Since many marine animals are responsive to noise in their environment, they can be greatly impacted by disruptions or changes to the soundscape they are accustomed to living in... read more. 


Do Fish Swim Around or Through Energy Devices in the Water? 
Understanding Collision Risk Associated with Marine Renewable Energy Devices  
with Garrett Staines 

Marine renewable energy (MRE) is a vastly progressing industry that harnesses the energy of waves, tides, and river currents using dynamic technologies, like tidal turbines and wave energy converters. Tidal turbine blades rotate with the rising and falling of the tides, creating a locally derived and reliable energy source. The turning blades may create obstacles for wildlife, such as fish, diving seabirds, and marine mammals. Understanding how animals behave around underwater devices is an ongoing goal for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers who need to assess potential effects of these technologies, including the risk of collision.  

The Triton Initiative is a U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Technologies Office project that is dedicated to understanding the potential impacts of MRE devices on the environment to remove deployment barriers  and make this powerful renewable resource possible. The Triton Field Trials (TFiT) tests methods and technology more


How to Measure the Invisible: Quantifying Electromagnetic Fields  
Researching Electromagnetic Fields with Molly Grear  

Magnetic fields are everywhere. The Earth’s magnetic field occurs naturally and is key to making the planet habitable. Electromagnetic fields (EMF) are invisible forces, often caused by the movement of electricity through cables, that allow humans to transmit power and information over long distances. With our increasing dependence on telecommunications and electricity, EMFs are around us more than ever. They are an unavoidable part of developing new technologies, including in the marine renewable energy (MRE) industry where EMFs are generated by electrical transmission through undersea cables and power generation from the MRE devices themselves. 

Some marine animals, like sharks, rays, sea turtles, and fish, utilize the Earth’s naturally occurring magnetic fields for things like communication and navigation. Anthropogenic EMF sources—those that are created by humans—may interfere with marine animals’ sensory functions. While most humans cannot detect the presence of... read more. 


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.