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News Release: $125,000 Awarded in DISCOVER Stage of Ocean Observing Prize; Launch of DEVELOP Competition

April 2, 2020

Today, the U.S Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced the 11 winners of the DISCOVER Competition, the first stage of the Powering the Blue EconomyTM: Ocean Observing Prize. Of the selected winners, 10 received $10,000 each, and one grand prizewinner received $25,000 to help accelerate the growth of the blue economy and the development of the marine energy sector.

“A vast amount of the world’s oceans remains unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored,” explained Rebecca Green of NREL. “These exciting marine energy innovations in the prize are helping us overcome the energy constraints to effective and comprehensive ocean observation.”

To meet the goals of this prize, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Water Power Technologies Office has partnered with NREL, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) office to administer this prize.

Part of the American-Made Challenges series, the Ocean Observing Prize inspires innovators to integrate marine renewable energy with ocean observation platforms, ultimately revolutionizing our capability to collect the data needed to understand, map, and monitor the ocean.

With a greater understanding of the world’s oceans, we can better predict and track tropical storms that jeopardize lives, monitor fish stocks that communities depend on for sustenance, alert coastal areas of deadly tsunamis that can destroy towns and villages, and improve the health and livelihoods of coastal communities.

Lack of access to persistent energy sources is a challenge for many activities in the blue economy, including ocean observations. Marine energy presents a potential solution to revolutionize not only ocean observations, but to power many different activities across the blue economy. “Marine renewable energy is promising as a power source for ocean observation systems because in many parts of the ocean, especially places that are in high latitudes, there is a lot more energy available from the ocean itself than from other renewable resources,” said Rob Cavagnaro of PNNL.

The 90-day DISCOVER Competition cast a wide net to attract concepts across five ocean observing themes: unmanned vehicles; buoys, floats, and tags; ocean communications and underwater navigation; extreme environments; and blue sea ideas. The subsequent DEVELOP Competition will narrow in on a subset of the themes and will offer up to $3 million in prizes for those who successfully design, build, and test their systems. Participation in the DEVELOP Competition is not limited to those who participated or won prizes under the DISCOVER Competition. To learn more about the prize and the rules, visit the prize page.

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.