Photo: Ocean Observing Prize prototypes' testing at MASK (Courtesy of US DOE)

Three marine energy companies advance to next stage of US ocean observing prize

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has unveiled the winners of $500,000 cash prize in the second phase of the Ocean Observing Prize competition, established to help develop solutions that use marine energy to power hurricane-monitoring systems.

Ocean Observing Prize prototypes' testing at MASK (Courtesy of US DOE)
Ocean Observing Prize prototypes’ testing at MASK (Courtesy of US DOE)

The winners of the BUILD Contest, the second phase in the Powering the Blue Economy: Ocean Observing Prize DEVELOP Competition, were selected for their prototypes’ potential to power ocean-observing technologies by US DOE and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

These include Maiden Wave Energy’s Rover which won $275,000; Wave Powered Oceanographic Gliders, a partnership between Moye Consultants and Wave Venture, that secured $175,000; and Kevin Lu’s EEL Drone, which collected $50,000.

Nicole LeBoeuf, the director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service, said: “Ocean observing systems are gathering key information 24 hours a day, seven days a week all over the world. Harnessing the energy of waves to power our observation networks is a win-win and helps us meet some of our most critical missions. This kind of creativity is also an exciting part of the new blue economy.”

In June, the competitors tested their early-stage prototypes in the Maneuvering and Seakeeping Basin (MASK) – also known as the U.S. Navy’s indoor ocean – at the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s facility in Carderock in Maryland. The basin holds more than 12 million gallons of water and can simulate diverse wave conditions, helping uncover the capabilities of new wave-powered technologies.

During testing, the teams assembled their devices, and crews placed each wave-powered prototype in the MASK to see how it weathered a variety of wave conditions. This allowed the teams to demonstrate how their prototypes collect data and recharge with wave power. 

Experts evaluated each prototype’s ability to collect data, maneuverability, power, and mission compliance (like operations, safety, size, and weight).

During testing, two of the prototypes powered themselves using energy they generated – showing that wave power has the potential to enhance the endurance and capability of uncrewed ocean-observing platforms. These prototypes met testing expectations and helped identify future research opportunities for marine energy-powered ocean-observing platforms, according to US DOE.

The organizers said they are now evaluating next steps for the Ocean Observing Prize and exploring how best to advance and further test these early-stage prototypes.

Since 2019, the Ocean Observing Prize competitors have proposed new ways to integrate marine energy with ocean-observing technologies, including weather buoys, cabled arrays, and uncrewed underwater vehicles.

Marine energy-powered devices could eventually lengthen deployments at sea to provide more coverage and collect higher-resolution data that forecasters can use to more accurately predict hurricane intensity and paths, US DOE said.

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