The illustration for Powering the Blue Economy: Power at Sea (Courtesy of the U.S. DOE's American Made Challenges)

US DOE launches $1.7M competition to power offshore economy with marine energy

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has launched the Powering the Blue Economy: Power at Sea Prize, which will award up to $1.7 million to competitors to advance technologies that use marine energy to power ocean-based activities.

The illustration for Powering the Blue Economy: Power at Sea (Courtesy of the U.S. DOE's American Made Challenges)

Next-generation maritime or ‘blue’ technologies are moving farther offshore to capture data across the ocean. Applications may include ocean-observing devices, aquaculture installations, and much more, and all require access to consistent, locally available power.

This prize challenges competitors to meet this need by identifying new, innovative, and feasible marine energy concepts that harness the power of the ocean.

Jeff Marootian, principal deputy assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said: “Marine energy technologies have incredible potential to power systems out at sea that serve broad societal needs, like collecting data about our vast and largely unexplored oceans. I’m excited to see the inventive concepts competitors develop and how they can help advance our goal to achieve net-zero emissions across all sectors of our economy by 2050.”

Concepts can power any off-grid use in the ocean with marine energy, which includes power from waves, tides, and ocean currents. To accelerate the commercialization of the nascent marine energy industry, competitors’ concepts should have a high potential for eventual deployment at sea, according to U.S. DOE.

Over two phases, the Power at Sea Prize will incentivize competitors to develop novel, marine energy-powered concepts by choosing at least one of the following integration challenges specific to the blue economy:

  • Access: How does the solution help to reduce the high cost or limited opportunities for service, maintenance, and/or intervention?
  • Deployment duration: How does the solution improve the deployment duration at sea?
  • Energy storage: How does the solution improve the capabilities currently limited by battery capacity?
  • Environmental/ecological impact: How does the solution minimize the negative effects of interactions with local flora and fauna?
  • Harsh operational conditions: How does the solution address operations in challenging conditions and unwanted growth of marine organisms?
  • Hybridization with other renewable energy resources: How does the solution utilize marine energy to address power gaps caused by intermittency of other non-marine renewable energy resources?
  • Suitability of power: How does the solution maximize efficiency?

The first phase, CONCEPT, will center on developing teams and sound concepts, awarding up to 20 winners from a cash prize pool of up to $200,000.

The U.S. DOE noted that concepts in early stages of development are welcome – from a system, subsystem, or component that has not yet been developed to those that have had some previous work completed up to the prototype stage.

The CONCEPT phase is now open for submissions and will close on July 26, 2024.

The second phase, DEVELOP, aims to better position competitors for continued technology development following the prize. Up to 20 DEVELOP phase winners will be selected and share a cash prize pool of up to $1.5 million.

In addition to cash prizes, competitors will receive multiple types of support throughout the competition, including webinars, networking sessions, and training in marine energy, applications in the blue economy, commercialization best practices, or other topics of interest.

This prize supports the goals of the DOE Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO)’s Powering the Blue Economy initiative

It  is funded by WPTO and is administered by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Office of Aquaculture, NOAA-led U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System, NOAA Ocean Acidification Program, NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program, and DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory also provide technical support.

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