U.S. DOE unveils first-stage Ocean Observing Prize winners

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have selected seven winners of the DESIGN Contest for their innovative ideas to integrate marine renewable energy with ocean observing platforms.

Illustration (Courtesy of U.S. DOE)
Illustration (Courtesy of U.S. DOE)

The DESIGN Contest is the first of three contests in the Powering the Blue Economy: Ocean Observing Prize DEVELOP Competition.

The winning innovations will help improve the ability to forecast hurricane intensity and protect coastal communities from oncoming storms, according to U.S. DOE.

The selected teams will advance to the next stage of the competition, the BUILD Contest, where they will construct working prototypes based on their designs.

Each selected team received a share of $400,000 in cash prizes, and will compete for the remaining $2 million in the subsequent BUILD and SPLASH Contests.

The following seven winners were selected to advance to the next stage: Autonomous Marine Power System (Sacramento, CA); EEL Drone (Los Angeles, CA); Halona WEC Based Mobile AUV Docking Station (Honolulu, HI); Maiden Wave Energy Rover (Philadelphia, PA); Platypus Prowler (West Palm Beach, FL); Thaumas – God of the Wonders of the Sea (Menlo Park, CA); and Wave Powered Oceanographic Gliders (Tallahassee, FL).

The selected teams will test their devices in a state-of-the-art wave tank at the U.S. Navy’s Maneuvering and Seakeeping (MASK) Basin in Maryland, in autumn 2021.

Kelly Speakes-Backman, acting assistant secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said: “The innovators in the Ocean Observing Prize are developing solutions to help us protect communities at risk from dangerous hurricanes using reliable clean energy technologies.

“Under the Biden-Harris Administration, DOE will continue to strengthen our relationship with NOAA and develop solutions to mitigate and prepare for natural disasters brought on by the climate crisis”.

To help support the competitors as they refine their designs and build their prototypes, teams will work with sponsoring organizations providing mentorship and training.

Through its network of Blue Economy professionals, the New England Ocean Cluster will provide mentorship for competing teams as needed and help raise awareness for the prize, DOE said.

SeaAhead will offer access to its training sessions to competing teams and help develop the Ocean Observing Prize community, while DSA Ocean is providing a six month license to their ProteusDS software as well as access to training for use, according to DOE.

The winning teams selected during the BUILD Contest will share a prize pool of $500,000 and will advance to the final stage of the competition, the SPLASH Contest.

In the SPLASH Contest, teams will refine their prototypes and test their systems at sea to evaluate endurance and performance in real-world conditions. Up to three grand prize winners will share a total prize pool of up to $1.5 million.

The Ocean Observing Prize is a joint prize between DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office and NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System Office.

The prize includes a series of competitions – beginning with the DISCOVER Competition and followed by the DEVELOP Competition – offering millions of dollars in awards to encourage rapid innovation in marine energy and ocean observation.