AquaHarmonics Wins the Energy Department’s Wave Energy Prize

Winners_640x480-2.png
CalWave Power Technologies and Waveswing America Named Runners-Up in $2.25 Million Prize Challenge

WASHINGTON (Nov. 16, 2016) – Today the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy announced AquaHarmonics as the winner of the Wave Energy Prize – which comes with a $1.5 million grand prize. CalWave Power Technologies and Waveswing America were awarded second and third place, respectively, with $500,000 and $250,000 in cash prizes. With more than 50 percent of the U.S. population living within 50 miles of coastlines, there is vast potential to provide clean, renewable electricity to communities and cities across the United States using wave energy.

An 18-month design-build-test competition, the Wave Energy Prize focuses on catalyzing the development of game-changing wave energy converters that will ultimately reduce the cost of wave energy. Wave energy technology could one day provide clean, cost-competitive, reliable energy for homeowners, communities, businesses, and government in geographically suited parts of the United States.

“The Wave Energy Prize marks a significant advance for marine energy,” said Lynn Orr, DOE’s Under Secretary for Science and Energy. “This competition set a difficult threshold of doubling the energy captured from ocean waves, and four teams surpassed that goal. AquaHarmonics’ technology leap incentivized by the Energy Department demonstrates how rapid innovation can be achieved in a public prize challenge.”

Ninety-two teams registered for the prize beginning in April 2015. Over the course of the competition, a panel of judges ultimately identified nine finalists and two alternates, which were announced in March. These teams received up to $125,000 in seed funding to build scaled prototypes of their wave energy converter devices. With the support of the U.S. Navy, the finalist teams tested their prototype devices at the nation’s most advanced wave-making facility, the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Maneuvering and Seakeeping Basin at Carderock, Maryland.

Wave energy is produced by converting the energy from waves into electricity. It has the potential to be a substantial resource to deliver renewable energy to the United States. The wave energy sector is in its early stages of development, and the diversity of technologies makes it difficult to evaluate the most technically and economically viable solutions. The Wave Energy Prize Competition has addressed this challenge by comparing a wide range of device types and evaluating them against a threshold requirement for high energy capture. The Prize has already facilitated rapid technical innovation, and in the next year, the Energy Department will publish data from all the finalist teams’ test results to further accelerate advancement of this sector.

“It’s been a project we’ve been working on since even before the Wave Energy Prize was announced,” said Max Ginsburg from AquaHarmonics. “As we progressed towards the finals, it just got more and more exciting.”

Go to water.energy.gov for information on the Water Power Technologies Office funding opportunities that sponsor the development of innovative technologies that generate renewable, environmentally friendly, and cost-competitive electricity from water resources. To see the full results of the competition or for more information about the Wave Energy Prize, go to waveenergyprize.org.

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

June 2016 image.png

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!

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.