AquaHarmonics Wins the Energy Department’s Wave Energy Prize

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 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

Wave Energy Prize winner(s) to be announced Nov. 16


It has been a long road for our teams since registering for the Wave Energy Prize back in the spring of 2015. In 18 months, they have written technical submissions, test plans, and build plans; constructed 1/50th-scale models, completed small-scale testing, and numerically modeled their WEC’s performance; and finally, after building 1/20th-scale WEC prototypes, tested their devices at the Navy’s Maneuvering and Seakeeping (MASK) Basin in Carderock, Md. Nothing remains but to find out how many teams were able to meet or exceed the Prize’s goal of doubling the energy captured from ocean waves, and to ultimately announce whose technology met or exceeded the required ACE value and produced the highest HPQ.

The U.S. Department of Energy will announce the winner(s) during the Wave Energy Prize Innovation Showcase to be held at Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock on Nov. 16. Attendance at this event will be by invitation only.

For our teams, whether they are the winner of the $1.5 million grand prize or not, Nov. 16 is not the end, but rather a new beginning. In the months following the Prize, the teams will analyze the data obtained during testing at the MASK Basin to help bring their innovative technologies to the market.

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, 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.

Jose Cristin Finalists.jpg

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.


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).

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

Wave Energy Prize

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.

Representative Structural Thickness (RST) and Characteristic Capital Expenditure (CCE)

In order to compare the potential cost of energy between wave energy conversion (WEC) devices at low Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs), the ACE metric was created as a proxy for Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) (see blog post from June 11). The Characteristic Capital Expenditure (CCE) portion of the ACE metric is determined by the following equation:

Characteristic Capital Expenditure (CCE) = Total Surface Area (m2) x Representative Structural Thickness (m) x Density of Material(s) (kg/m3) x Cost of Manufactured Material per unit Mass ($/kg) for all applicable materials.

Representative structural thickness, or RST, is the most crucial of these variables, and is described below.

What is RST?

RST is used to determine the total structural mass when multiplied by the surface area of the device. The RST can be visualized as a single uniform thickness that is obtained by melting down all of the structural components of a WEC then “casting” the shape of the WEC with a constant wall thickness – the RST. This means that all stiffeners and support structures are “lumped” together. A simple representation of the RST is shown below with a flat plate. The original structure includes a grid of stiffeners with a thin hull. That same quantity of material is then represented by a solid plate with the thickness given by the RST.

Plate Thickness

What is considered in determining RST? How is it calculated?

The following components determine RST:

1. Structural Mass

The structural mass of the device accounts for the mass of any and all load bearing structures that are critical to the power conversion path. This includes:

  • Any structure that interacts with the wave environment
  • Any supporting structures used to resist forces in the power conversion chain central to the load path/force flow path
  • Any significant load bearing foundation components

2. Simplified Surface Area

The surface area that is multiplied by the RST is a simplified representation of the WEC device. All stiffeners and support members that do not directly contribute to the power conversion path are excluded. The following examples show how the geometries of two U.S. Department of Energy reference models have been simplified for the RST calculation (reference model reports and documentation can be accessed at In the first example (point absorber) the surface area (faces in green) is simplified by not including external stiffeners and only accounting for one side of any thin plates. In the second example (oscillating water column), the surface area excludes all external stiffeners and only one surface of any thin plate is considered.




How do we calculate RST?

The overall methodology that is used to calculate the RST for all contestants is the same. At the most basic level, the device geometry and wave interactions are used to estimate hydrostatic, hydrodynamic, PTO and structural loads. The loads are calculated using widely used empirical formulas as well as NREL offshore models and first principle approximations where existing standards and guidelines do not exist. These loads are fed into structural models that calculate stresses using existing offshore guidelines and standards. The diagram below represents the process that will be used to calculate the RST for each WEC.


What are RST Tables?

As described in Appendix D of the official Wave Energy Prize Rules (5.26.15 R1), each WEC will be assigned an RST Table by September 15, 2015. This table will include the RST value calculated based on the above process, along with additional RST values that represent different load cases. These additional RST values can be used by the Prize judges during the competition to alter the final RST value depending on results from and performance in the 1/50th and/or 1/20th tank tests. For devices that utilize more than one material, an RST table will be supplied for each material.

Why RST?

Now that we’ve described what RST is and how it’s calculated, you’re probably asking yourself, why is the Wave Energy Prize using RST instead of the actual structural design? This simple answer is to maintain consistency during the competition. Every contestant will have a structural mass that is estimated using similar standards and design guidelines, allowing lower TRL devices to be judged against high TRL devices without bias. This also allows for a quicker analysis because devices with similar geometry and similar wave interactions will be viewed as structurally similar devices.

What is Manufactured Material Cost?

Referencing back to the equation for CCE, the last critical variable is manufactured material cost (MMC). This value represents the total cost to manufacture the materials used in the WEC at full production scale. Therefore, the MMC includes the raw material cost, any fabrication, forming, assembly, etc. In addition to the RST tables, the Prize judges will be given a table that includes a range of MMC values that will allow the judges to address designs that have high or low complexity, which will result in a higher or lower MMC value.