The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a lease to the university to test a turbine system driven by ocean currents.
"This is the first time a lease has been issued to test ocean current energy equipment in federal waters," acting BOEM Director Walter Cruickshank said in a statement Tuesday.
The demonstration project envisions hydrokinetic turbines deployed about 10 nautical miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. BOEM said "multiple" test devices, anchored to the sea floor, could generate as much as 100 kilowatts of power from wave energy.
The university's president, John Kelly, said the project is "paradigm-shifting development" in the race for new renewable sources of energy.
A small-scale research project was conducted in 2013. An environmental impact assessment of the demonstration project found no significant impact was expected.