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News Release: Waves to Water Prize CONCEPT Winners Announced; Ocean Observing Prize Accepting Applications

Nov. 14, 2019

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) today announced the 20 winners for the CONCEPT Stage of the Waves to Water Prize competition. This is the first prize administered as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Security Grand Challenge. This announcement marks the opening of the DESIGN Stage of the prize.

NREL also announced today that the Ocean Observing Prize will start accepting applications for its DISCOVER Competition. NREL administers and executes both prizes on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office.

Part of the American-Made Challenges series, which incentivizes entrepreneurs to reassert American leadership in the energy marketplace, the Waves to Water Prize is intended to accelerate early-stage technologies for small, modular, cost-competitive desalination systems that use ocean waves to provide the energy required to desalinate ocean water and provide drinking water to remote and coastal communities.

Winners of the Waves to Water Prize CONCEPT Stage were chosen from a field of 66 eligible submissions and selected based on the degree of innovation, feasibility, additional benefits of their proposed idea, and the team’s technical and entrepreneurial skillsets. Each of the selected winners received a $10,000 prize and will have the opportunity to refine their concepts in the DESIGN Stage of the competition.

The Waves to Water Prize CONCEPT Stage winners are published on the American-Made Challenges Waves to Water Prize website.

“The concepts developed by all of the winners are promising,” said Scott Jenne, an NREL researcher who helped inform the structure and content of the competition. “It will be exciting to see how the winners further develop and refine their innovations in the upcoming stages to get ready for the final competition at the DRINK Stage.”

Today officially kicks off the competition’s DESIGN Stage, which requires competitors to develop a technical plan and supporting analysis of their wave-powered desalination system.

Competitors who have previously applied and new innovators are encouraged to apply. To learn more about the prize and download the updated rules document, visit the prize page.

Also, a new $3-million prize that will help generate innovation in marine-energy-powered ocean-observing platforms is now open for applications. The Powering the Blue Economy: Ocean Observing Prize will provide a new opportunity for the innovation community to develop marine energy technologies that enable more persistent and pervasive ocean measurements, working in partnership with end users in the ocean-observing community to address energy challenges.

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. NREL is working closely with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Water Power Technologies Office, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to provide technical and engineering support for prize activities, as well as develop strategic partnerships with the ocean-observing community, blue economy clusters and accelerators, and the clean-tech community.

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.

The U.S. Department of Energy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are seeking prize entries in five areas:

  • Unmanned vehicles
  • Buoys, floats, and tags
  • Ocean communications and underwater navigation
  • Extreme environments
  • "Blue-sea" ideas.

Competition 1 is the DISCOVER Competition, in which applicants have 90 days to propose their ideas. Up to six winners of this stage are anticipated to be announced in March 2020—a total cash prize pool of $125,000 is available. To apply for the Ocean Observing Prize, visit the Powering the Blue Economy: Ocean Observing Prize website.

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 U.S. Department of Energy by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.