Photo: Illustration (Courtesy of Oscilla Power)

United States awards grants for small business-led marine energy projects

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced funding for continuing research and development projects in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, including $8.1 million for seven hydropower and marine energy projects.

Illustration (Courtesy of Oscilla Power)
Illustration (Courtesy of Oscilla Power)

The seven selected small business-led projects will each receive Phase II grants ranging from $1.1-1.5 million to explore the technical feasibility of innovative solutions in hydropower and marine energy.

These solutions will support DOE and Office of Energy and Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) efforts to decarbonize the electricity and maritime transportation sectors.

DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) selected these small businesses to advance to Phase II of the SBIR/STTR program based on their progress during Phase I and their potential to accelerate marine energy and hydropower technologies

The supported marine energy projects are part of $125 million awarded by DOE for 110 innovative projects, each focused on tackling the climate crisis by harnessing market-oriented solutions and emerging technologies.

“We are honored to support this diverse body of pioneering entrepreneurs committed to scaling clean energy technologies and creating good-paying American jobs”, said acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy Kelly Speakes-Backman. “Because of their example of ingenuity and creativity, I’m confident that we have the capacity to tackle the climate crisis by deploying a wide range of innovative solutions right here at home”.

The companies and marine energy projects selected for support include:

  • Ocean Motion Technologies; Leveraging co-development for the energy capture subsystem of a small-scale adaptive wave energy converter

Ocean Motion Technologies will fabricate a cost-effective, adaptive ocean wave energy device that can optimize its power output based on ambient environments for scientific and defense applications. This will enable the development of renewable energy powered systems that operate in the ocean for long periods of time without power constraints.

  • Oscilla Power; Integrated wave power charging capability for ocean observing vehicles

The Oscilla Power project will integrate an ocean wave powered recharging capability into an autonomous ocean observing vehicle as a way of extending its mission duration. This new approach will allow these vehicles to operate for significantly longer periods of time, potentially indefinitely. This will be a major step towards allowing the U.S. to take the lead in harnessing this clean energy resource, providing enhanced defense/surveillance capabilities.

  • 3newable; Preventing biofouling of oceanographic sensors using UV illumination powered by a compact wave energy converter

3newable aims to capture ocean wave energy to power scientific oceanographic sensors, specifically an anti-biofouling device to keep the instrumentation clear of biological growth. This will provide a complementary source of renewable energy to power ocean systems.

  • Triton Systems; Wave energy harvesting to power ocean buoys

Triton Systems is Triton is developing a point-absorber type wave energy converter that will be integrated with ocean buoys. This can double the power budget available to these buoys and enable the collection of data from the ocean.

  • FastWatt; Compact power converter with high waveform quality for direct-drive renewable energy generators

FastWatt will develop a novel integrated power converter-transformer that is 2 times smaller and 10 times lighter, provides high waveform and power quality desirable for machines such as superconducting generators intended for large offshore renewable energy applications, and is scalable for direct interface to 69 kVAC grid collection systems.

The modular and scalable power conditioning system (PCS) will leverage wide bandgap semiconductor materials and power device manufacturing advancements that will reduce the size and weight of the PCS systems thereby lowering the cost to transport, install, and service the clean energy technologies.

  • Visionary Products; MHK-RoboCatch: Context-aware robotic trash boom powered by marine hydrokinetics

Visionary Products’ project aims to leverage energy from rivers’ flow and robotics to monitor and aggregate plastic debris in a waterway, readying it for extraction. Rivers are a major pollution pathway, depositing floating trash into sensitive ecosystems where it remains for decades or longer, and this project will use hydrokinetic energy to alleviate this problem.