Illustration/Oneka Technologies' wave energy-drive desalination platform (Courtesy of Oneka Technologies)

US Department of Energy backs 7 marine energy projects with nearly $10 million

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has invested nearly $10 million in seven innovative projects that will accelerate development and testing of marine energy technologies.

Illustration/Oneka Technologies' wave energy-drive desalination platform (Courtesy of Oneka Technologies)

The investments will help advance research on wave-powered technology for use in seawater desalination and support a feasibility study for a potential ocean current test facility.

The seven projects announced today are part DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office’s (WPTO) Powering the Blue Economy Initiative, with six selected to advance solutions that could provide low-cost, emission-free, and drought-resistant drinking water in disaster-relief situations and to small communities.

Out of the selected projects, the one led by Florida Atlantic University has received $800,000 will assess the feasibility of establishing an ocean current test facility off the coast of Palm Beach County in Florida.

The facility would provide grid-connected technology testing for current energy converters to de-risk and accelerate systems to commercial readiness. The feasibility assessment will include a preliminary analysis of infrastructure needs, coordination with regulatory agencies and stakeholders to develop an initial regulatory and permitting roadmap, and a preliminary economic impact assessment.

As for wave energy-driven desalination, the supported projects have been divided into three topics. The first, related to proving of robust and reliable designs of wave-powered desalination systems, supported Oneka Technologies with almost $2 million for a project dubbed Oneka IceCube Emergency Relief Wave-Powered Desalination.

The project will optimize the Oneka IceCube, a wave-powered desalination device specifically designed for emergency relief applications and the grand prize winner of WPTO’s Waves to Water Prize. Oneka’s team will work to reduce costs and improve technical performance, durability, and reliability to maximize water output, ease deployment and manufacturability, and prepare for commercialization.

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The second project supported under this topic is led by Sea Potential, with the financial backing of $1.8 million. This project will deploy, test, and accelerate commercialization of the company’s DUO-DS wave-powered desalination device, which pumps seawater through a reverse osmosis membrane to generate freshwater. Sea Potential’s team expects to deploy the technology off the coast of Massachusetts to capture performance data.

The final project that received $1.6 million in this topic is led by Water Bros Desalination. The project aims to advance the Wave-Actuated, Tethered Emergency Response Buoyant Reverse Osmosis System (WATER BROS) desalination system, which was one of the finalists in WPTO’s Waves to Water Prize.

The team plans three deployments at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, North Carolina, during which they will collect data, test and monitor device performance and instrumentation, analyze water quality and production, and monitor the environment where the device is deployed.

The second desalination topic is related to reducing risk and validating novel components in wave-powered desalination systems. Here, Oneka Technologies was once again financially backed with $1.4 million to develop a self-cleaning seawater intake system, optimize system design to preserve the life of reverse osmosis membranes and lengthen the time between maintenance, and optimize hydraulic components to increase system efficiency and uptime and reduce maintenance costs.

The project team plans to validate these sub-components, including through in-ocean testing near Fort Pierce in Florida.

North Carolina State University was also successful in securing funds for this topic. The university’s project, funded with $1.6 million, will seek to transform Liquid Robotics’ autonomous, uncrewed Wave Glider into a mobile, anchor-less desalination platform.

The resulting system aims to be rapidly deployable from a near-shore location, able to desalinate up to 1,000 gallons of water, and able to immediately redeploy after offloading desalinated water. The project involves tank testing at the University of Michigan and open-water testing at Liquid Robotics’ Hawaii Marine Operations Facility and Test Range.

When it comes to the third and final topic, Binghamton University has received financial backing in the amount of $607,000 to support advancements in marine energy desalination more broadly.

The university’s project, dubbed Off-Grid Tidal Turbine-Driven Centrifugal Reverse Osmosis System, will develop, test, and establish proof-of-concept for an integrated tidal desalination system, which creates drinkable water from rotational power of hydrokinetic turbines rather than electrical energy.

The project team plans to conduct lab-scale turbine testing at Lehigh University’s Tidal Turbulence Test Facility.

Alejandro Moreno, acting assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said: “Marine energy technologies have incredible potential to provide clean electricity as well as clean water. These projects represent DOE’s first significant investment in marine energy serving the blue economy market, and will advance technologies that can meet these needs and help achieve President Biden’s goal of a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050.”

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