Photo: Illustration (Courtesy of US DOE)

Marine energy-powered designs as storm trackers up for US cash prize

The DEVELOP Competition, as part of the Ocean Observing Prize, has put $2.4 million up for grabs for problem solvers looking to develop technologies that integrate marine renewable energy into underwater vehicle systems that can help monitor hurricane formation.

Illustration (Courtesy of US DOE)

Offering $2.4 million in cash prizes, and supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the DEVELOP competition will also grant access to testing in tanks and at sea, and provide in-kind support for the innovators.

The challenge at hand is to integrate wave energy harvesting with autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), creating a self-charging ocean observing platform for hurricane monitoring that can remain deployed at sea for months at a time.

The different contests within the DEVELOP Competition – comprised of Design, Build, and Splash stages –  will provide competitors a chance to design prototypes, build and test them in a controlled environment, and eventually test them at sea.

DEVELOP Competition stages (Courtesy of US DOE)

The current contest – the Design stage – will remain open for 120 days, closing 16 February, 2021. 

“The U.S. Department of Energy plays an important role in planning for and responding to natural disasters like hurricanes—this includes catalyzing the research and development of technologies to power the ocean observing platforms critical to hurricane monitoring”, said deputy secretary of energy Mark W. Menezes.

“Building on its DISCOVER Competition, we are excited to work alongside our partners at NOAA to launch the Ocean Observing Prize DEVELOP Competition, which challenges competitors to build and test technologies powered by marine energy that ultimately can help increase our nation’s abilities to predict future hurricanes”.

Throughout the DEVELOP Competition, the prize team will also provide support to the competitors through a variety of avenues, including, but not limited to, R&D vouchers, testing and validation, business webinars, and mentoring and coaching.

Hurricane monitoring is just the beginning for the Ocean Observing Prize. Subsequent iterations of the prize will focus on different energy challenges in ocean monitoring, which could include monitoring fish stocks or alerting coastal areas of deadly tsunamis.

Tim Gallaudet, assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy NOAA administrator, said: “This partnership with the Department of Energy tapped into a community of innovators who are bringing truly creative solutions to renewable energy for marine applications.

“Harnessing wave energy for autonomous underwater vehicles shows great promise for supporting hurricane forecasting and also poses potential benefits for the application of unoccupied systems research and exploration more broadly, which connects to the heart of many of NOAA’s critical mission areas”.

The Ocean Observing Prize is administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on behalf DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office and the Integrated Ocean Observing System program at NOAA.