9 Finalists Move Forward in the Wave Energy Prize

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The Wave Energy Prize announced today that the nine finalist teams identified on March 1 will all proceed through Technology Gate 3 to test their 1/20th scale wave energy converter prototypes at the Navy’s Maneuvering and Seakeeping Basin beginning next month. Many thanks to our Wave Energy Prize alternates who continued work on their technologies since March, and we wish the best of luck to the Finalist Teams as they put the finishing touches on their prototypes before shipping them to Carderock!

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Wave Energy Prize Program Update: A Look Back at Our First Year, a Look Ahead at Achieving Our Goals

By Alison LaBonte, Ph.D.

Program Manager, Marine and Hydrokinetic Technologies, Wind and Water Technologies Office, U.S. Department of Energy

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In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) realized that revolutionary advancements in wave energy were needed for it to play a significant role in our clean energy portfolio, making wave energy a great candidate for a public prize competition. The Wave Energy Prize is not your average research and development program: compressed timelines spark rapid innovation, resulting in revolutionary technology development.

Before we opened registration for the Wave Energy Prize, our team set an aggressive goal to double the state-of-the-art energy captured per unit structural cost of wave energy converters (WECs). With this goal came a number of program objectives, which are to:

  • mobilize new and existing talent,
  • conduct a rigorous comparison between device types,
  • advance the understanding of pathways to achieve long-term levelized cost of energy goals, and
  • attract investors and create a strong foundation for future funding opportunities

So far, we’re achieving these ambitious objectives. A year ago, 92 teams registered for the Prize, three times more than we expected. Of these, 66 turned in technical submissions, which were evaluated by our panel of expert judges to identify 20 Qualified Teams. Most teams that registered were not previously known to DOE. Seventeen of the 20 Qualified Teams’ completed the initial small scale testing phase, and only two of the nine teams selected for the final phase of testing have received any funding from DOE in the past.

In April, I updated the MHK community gathered at Waterpower Week in Washington, D.C., on the progress of the Prize during a panel discussion on innovation. So far, most of the teams have met the aggressive timelines for the Prize, which puts DOE in a great position to achieve the remaining objectives. To meet the requirements for Technology Gate 2, the Qualified Teams built 1/50th-scale model devices, tested them at university facilities around the country, and conducted significant numerical modeling studies in just four months.

The nine Finalist and two Alternate Teams have put forward diverse WEC designs, which include two submerged areal absorbers; four point absorbers; two attenuators; and three terminators. And in these designs, we’re already seeing technical innovations in the areas of geometry, materials, power conversion and controls. Some of these include:

  • adaptive sea state-to-sea state control,
  • wave-to-wave control,
  • power absorption in multiple degrees of freedom,
  • optimized float shapes and dimensions for energy absorption for broad bandwidth of wave frequencies,
  • survival strategies such as submerging beneath the surface for extreme storms,
  • use of structures and materials that are cost effective to manufacture, and
  • flexible membranes that react to the wave pressure over a broad area.

Waterpower Week attendees saw some of these innovations firsthand when they met the Finalists and Alternate Teams during the Wave Energy Prize Showcase in which the 1/50th-scale models were on display.

Industry stakeholders are taking notice, and the public’s awareness of wave energy is increasing because of the teams’ efforts in the Prize. In just over a year, more than 100 news stories have featured the Prize, including in outlets like Popular Science, The Weather Channel and National Geographic. The Prize’s website has hosted more than 23,000 visitors, and its social media channels have logged more than a half million impressions. This increased awareness of the potential contribution of wave energy to the nation’s renewable energy mix will exist long after the Prize ends, and will likely set the stage for future private-sector investments and government funding opportunities.

It’s an exciting time to be in the wave energy community. The teams are putting the finishing touches on their 1/20th-scale prototypes, which will be rigorously tested at the U.S. Navy’s MASK Basin from August through early October. Follow our teams’ progress at waveenergyprize.org, and save the date for November 16, when winner(s), if any, will be announced!

Wave Energy Prize Finalist Teams and Alternates Showcased at Waterpower Week

Photocollage_640x480_V2Wave Energy Prize Finalist and Alternate Teams recently had a unique opportunity to showcase their technologies and network with industry, academic, and government stakeholders during Waterpower Week 2016 in Washington, D.C.

The week’s events kicked off during the National Hydropower Association Annual Conference’s opening plenary session on Monday, April 25 when José Zayas, Director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind and Water Power Technologies Office, highlighted the work of the teams to the more than 700 conference attendees.

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On Monday and Tuesday, the teams had their 1/50th-scale WEC models on display, meeting with Zayas, Cristin Dorgelo, Chief of Staff of the White House Office of Science and Technology, and other event attendees during the conference’s coffee breaks. On Tuesday afternoon, teams switched gears and took part in a Wave Energy Prize Team Summit, a key part of Waterpower Week, where they were able to meet each other and share ideas; learn about the requirements of upcoming Technology Gates 3 and 4; and participate in on-camera interviews discussing their thoughts on the role of government in innovation, their teams’ successes so far, and the challenges they are overcoming in the upcoming final phase of the Prize. The teams then traveled to the MASK Basin at Carderock, Md., on Wednesday morning to better understand the logistical and technical requirements related to 1/20th-scale testing, and to tour the world-class facility where they will test their prototype devices beginning in August.

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Thanks to all those who joined us for Waterpower Week and the Team Summit, as well as all those who helped make the event a success!

From the Wave Energy Prize website: A question about ‘overtopping’

A university student from Texas writes:

“I read the ‘types of devices proposed by these teams include point absorbers, terminators, attenuators, oscillating water columns, and oscillating wave surge converters’ from your website. I am just reviewing some papers about WECs and found that there is another type of WEC which is called overtopping. My question is whether the overtopping type is less efficient so none of the top teams use it.”

(“WEC” means “Wave Energy Converter” or sometimes “Wave Energy Conversion.” It is common to say “WEC device” as well.)

To answer, the Wave Energy Prize provides an avenue to allow teams to develop innovative technologies that have the prospect for achieving a long-term impact of lowering the cost of electricity to make wave energy competitive with other means of generating power.  If someone came forward with a design for an “overtopping device” that shows promise achieving our overall program goal, as outlined in our Technology Performance Level (TPL)* assessment, then it may well have progressed in the competition.

To learn more about TPL, refer to “Details on the Technical Submission” written by Jochem Weber from National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

U.S. Department of Energy’s Wave Energy Prize Announces Finalist Teams

Meet the Wave Energy Prize Finalist Teams

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced Tuesday that nine teams have been named finalists in the Wave Energy Prize, a 20-month design-build-test competition, and will proceed to the next phase of the competition.

The nine finalists and two alternates, identified from the 17 remaining official qualified teams, will continue their quest to double the energy captured from ocean waves and win a prize purse totaling more than $2 million. Each of the finalists and alternates will now receive seed funding from DOE to develop 1/20th scale models of their wave energy converter (WEC). These models will be tested at the nation’s most advanced wave-making facility, the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Maneuvering and Seakeeping (MASK) Basin at Carderock, Md., beginning in the summer of 2016.

Official finalist teams are:

Alternate teams are:

“The qualified teams’ efforts resulted in some very promising technologies for the judges to evaluate,” said Wes Scharmen, principal investigator at Ricardo, Inc. and chief judge of the Wave Energy Prize. “Based on our preliminary evaluation, the data indicates that many of the teams identified as finalists have the potential to achieve the ACE threshold, and thus the potential to exceed DOE’s program goal. We’re looking forward to further verifying their designs performance at 1/20th scale in the MASK Basin at Carderock this summer.”

ACE—a benefit-to-cost ratio—was selected by the Wave Energy Prize as a metric appropriate for comparing low Technology Readiness Level WEC concepts when there is not enough data to calculate the levelized cost of energy —itself a cost-to-benefit ratio—from a device. ACE is determined by dividing, in essence, the wave energy extraction efficiency of a WEC by its structural cost. Finalists were determined based on their potential to achieve the doubling of the current state-of-the-art ACE value of 1.5 meters per million dollars (m/$M) to 3 m/$M during 1/20th scale tank testing at the MASK Basin, making them eligible to win the grand prize.

A panel of expert judges evaluated each qualified team based on their revised technical submissions, numerical modeling results, Model Design and Construction Plans, and the results of small-scale tank testing of their 1/50th scale models, and determined aggregate scores to identify the finalist pool.

The Wave Energy Prize is encouraging the development of game-changing WECs that will reduce the cost of wave energy, making it more competitive with traditional energy solutions.

Congratulations to the finalist teams, and thanks to all who have participated in theWave Energy Prize to date!

Two Wave Energy Prize Qualified Teams Selected by DOE to Receive Share in $10.5 Million for a Separate WEC Survivability Funding Opportunity

The New Year started with some good news for M3 Wave LLC and Oscilla Power, Inc. as these Wave Energy Prize Qualified Teams were two of six organizations selected to receive a share of $10.5 million under the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Durability and Survivability funding opportunity. This funding, which is separate from the Wave Energy Prize, targets the advancement of marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) device durability and survivability, features—not being tested for in the Wave Energy Prize—that make devices withstand the harsh conditions encountered in real-world marine environments.

  • M3 Wave LLC, of Salem, Ore., is developing a wave energy converter that sits on the ocean floor and harnesses energy from the pressure waves beneath ocean waves. This project will develop modeling tools to explore ways to 1) minimize effects of sediment transport, effects such as water erosion, displacement, and tilting of the device; and to 2) increase the lifetime of their system by reducing maintenance requirements in commercial-scale deployments.
  • Oscilla Power, Inc., of Seattle, is developing a wave energy converter consisting of a surface float that is tethered to a base suspended in the water. This project aims to optimize the device’s storm-survival configurations, which will decrease the loads the device experiences during extreme conditions.

DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories will also provide numerical modeling resources and expertise to the teams as they develop these next-generation ideas.

The design improvements will help these devices last longer, cost less to maintain and capture even more sustainable energy from the enormous potential of the nation’s oceans and rivers. Extending the lifespans of wave energy converters will ultimately lead to a reduction in the cost of MHK-derived energy. As part of its MHK technology research and development efforts, DOE is working to harness the largely untapped renewable energy in waves, tidal, ocean and river currents that could provide clean, affordable energy to homes and businesses across the country’s coastal regions.

From Qualified Teams to Finalists: The Assessment at Technology Gate 2

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The purpose of the Wave Energy Prize’s Technology Gate 2 (TG2) is to evaluate the likelihood of each Qualified Team’s success in achieving the ACE threshold (the doubling of the state-of-the-art ACE from 1.5 m/$M to 3 m/$M) if they were to test a larger, 1/20th scale model of their device in the MASK Basin. Those that present a high likelihood of achieving the ACE threshold will, through a rigorous judging process during TG2, be deemed Finalists.

As specified in the Wave Energy Prize Rules, TG2 will evaluate Qualified Teams using several metrics, as detailed below:

  1. As a first step in the evaluation process, judges will consider each Qualified Team’s Model Design and Construction Plan to determine if the team exhibits a reasonable understanding of the effort, tasks, timeline and materials that will be needed to design and build a 1/20th scale model. The assessment criteria for the Model Design and Construction Plans can be found in the table below:
    Criterion Narrative Document Timing Plan Bill of Materials
    To score a “Pass” Assessment The document illustrates a concise and thought out plan describing how the Team will successfully design and construct a 1/20th scale model in the allotted timeframe A detailed Gantt chart or similar timeline graphic shows the tasks that the Team plans to complete in the allotted timeframe The provided BoM template document is filled out with a logical breakdown of systems, subsystems, assemblies, and components along with actual or predicated quantity, mass, cost, supplier data for each item
    To score a “Fail” Assessment No document provided or a document that shows a significant lack of understanding of the phases, tasks, and/or steps needed to design and build a scale model No document provided or the provided document shows a significant lack of understanding the tasks and timeline needed to complete the build of a scale model. No document provided, document provided is not in the approved template form or the provided document shows a significant lack of understanding the materials to build and test a scale model

    Only teams that provide credible plans will be eligible to continue in the Prize.

  2. If the judging panel determines that a Qualified Team’s Model Design and Construction Plan is credible, i.e. if it is given a “pass,” it will then use the following information to evaluate the likelihood of the proposed wave energy converter (WEC) concept in satisfying the required threshold value for ACE during the 1/20th scale testing:
    • The capture width of the physical 1/50th scale model from the 1/50th scale testing, scaled up to full scale.
    • Assessment by the judges of the correlations between numerical model predictions and measurements for capture widths and device motions.  Predictions are at full scale for 1/50 wave conditions; experimental measurements from 1/50 test campaign are scaled up to full scale.
    • Revised Technical Submission and its re-evaluation using the Technology Performance Level rubric used in TG1.
    • Predictions of ACE (in m/$M) that can be expected in the MASK Basin testing.
    Criterion Capture Width of the Physical 1/50th Scale Model from 1/50th Scale Testing, Scaled up to Full Scale Correlation of Numerical Modeling Results to 1/50th Scale Waves Re-Evaluation of Technical Submission using TPL Predictions of ACE Expected in MASK Basin
    Value range 1 to 9 grouped in low, medium, high 1 to 9 grouped in low, medium, high 1 to 9 grouped in low, medium, high 1 to 9 grouped in low, medium, high
    Weighting for combined score 15% 25% 30% 30%

    The judges will score each of the above four criteria on a scale of 1 to 9. Then, they will calculate an overall combined score by computing a weighted average of the four individual scores.

    Qualified Teams will then be ranked from the highest overall combined score down to the lowest; up to 10 will be named Finalist Teams and up to two Alternate Teams will be identified.

    If the judges and/or Small-Scale Test Facilities are unable to test, measure and analyze the 1/50th scale WEC device in order to adequately determine absorbed power, the device will be eliminated from the Wave Energy Prize.

For more information on the assessment of the construction plan, evaluation of the four criteria, and the weighting of each as part of the overall combined score, please see the Wave Energy Prize Rules.