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News Release: NREL Supports Prize for Innovations in Ocean Observing Platforms

Sept. 18, 2019

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Water Power Technologies Office, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to offer a new $3 million prize that will help generate innovation in marine-energy-powered ocean observing platforms.

The Powering the Blue Economy: Ocean Observing Prize will provide a new opportunity for industry and technology developers to develop marine energy technologies at a scale that is more attainable than utility-scale power, as well as an opportunity to partner with technologists in the ocean observing community to address energy challenges.

A graphic visualizing the Ocean Observing Prize shows a submarine-like device navigating deep ocean waters.
The prize will challenge U.S. innovators to accelerate technology development through a series of contests to demonstrate integration of marine renewable energy with ocean observations. It seeks new ideas and technologies that reduce energy limitations for ocean observing by extending the range or duration of observations, reducing operational costs, or enabling entirely new data streams that will lead to better understanding of the ocean environment. The prize is a core element of the Powering the Blue Economy initiative.

The Ocean Observing Prize will consist of a series of competitions to encourage the development of new energy solutions that meet the needs of ocean researchers, agencies, explorers, and other end users that operate ocean observing technologies. Prizes are well-suited to achieve technology innovation and development goals because they attract nontraditional stakeholders, incentivize collaborations, strengthen partnerships, accelerate R&D, and stimulate market development.

Rebecca Green is an oceanographer and the principal investigator leading the NREL team's support of the prize. NREL is working closely with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and DOE to provide technical and engineering support for prize activities, as well as developing strategic partnerships with the ocean observing community, blue economy clusters and accelerators, and the clean-tech community.

"NREL has a keen interest in advancing marine energy integration with ocean observing systems to enable expanded marine sensing and data collection with potential for tremendous societal value, including environmental monitoring, weather forecasting, early warning systems, and search and rescue efforts," said Green. "Our team is excited to develop and administer this prize with DOE and looks forward to the innovative entries and new collaborations that we know will advance marine energy and our ability to observe and collect valuable ocean data."

Ocean observing platforms encompass a wide range of stationary and mobile technologies, including autonomous underwater vehicles, buoyancy gliders, profiling floats, weather and drifter buoys, and electronic tags for marine animals. Marine energy offers a promising opportunity to help alleviate the power constraints that limit all ocean observing missions, with implications for deployment duration, sampling rate, and the numbers and types of sensors and platforms deployed.

DOE is seeking prize entries in five thematic areas:

  • Charging unmanned systems
  • Ocean communications and underwater navigation
  • Extreme environments
  • Buoys, floats, and tags
  • "Blue-sea" ideas (other).

The Ocean Observing Prize builds on the success of DOE’s Waves to Water prize, which aims to demonstrate small, modular, cost-competitive desalination systems that use the power of ocean waves to provide clean drinking water for disaster recovery and remote and coastal communities.

Learn more about the Powering the Blue Economy initiative.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.