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News Release: Waves to Water Prize Announces DESIGN Winners and Selects Jennette’s Pier for Competition Finale

North Carolina Facility Will Host DRINK Stage Through Coastal Studies Institute Partnership

June 9, 2020

Barrier island or remote location? Sandy bottom? Shallow-wave conditions? When designing a wave-powered desalination device, location and environmental conditions matter.

This week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced the winners for the DESIGN Stage and the location for the final DRINK Stage of the American-Made Challenges Waves to Water Prize: Jennette’s Pier on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

“The wave conditions for a specific location, such as the wave period and wave height, are crucial to optimize a wave-energy powered system,” said Scott Jenne, NREL principal investigator for the Waves to Water Prize. “With the announcement of Jennette’s Pier, teams now know what kind of environment they’re designing for and can improve their systems accordingly.”

NREL, which manages the Waves to Water Prize, awarded the 17 winning DESIGN Stage teams each $47,000 for demonstrating their systems’ technical capability and plans to build a functional proof-of-concept desalination system. These teams are now preparing to validate their systems in the open ocean at Jennette’s Pier.

Both the DESIGN Stage winners and new teams can participate in the ADAPT Stage, the third stage in the competition. The ADAPT stage allows teams to continue their computer-based modeling work, tweaking system designs to account for the wave conditions at Jennette’s Pier from their homes.

Competitors will return to the lab for the fourth stage, CREATE, which will launch in February 2021 and run through September 2021. In this stage, contestants will build a functional prototype or proof-of-concept of their system and develop a plan to build and deliver their technology for testing at Jennette’s Pier during the final DRINK stage, scheduled for spring 2022. The prize competition finale is the result of a partnership between NREL, DOE, and the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) of the University of North Carolina system.

Waves to Water Prize: Accelerating Wave-Powered Desalination Innovation

The Waves to Water Prize is a five-stage, $3.3-million contest seeking to accelerate the development of small, modular, wave-powered desalination systems capable of providing clean water in disaster and recovery scenarios, as well as in water-scarce coastal and island locations.

Wave energy-powered desalination systems could help address coastal challenges such as resilience, disaster recovery, and water scarcity, especially if systems are competitive in price, water production, and reliability when compared to conventional alternatives.

Through this prize, DOE seeks to accelerate innovation in both wave energy devices and desalination systems and incentivize the development of interdisciplinary approaches to integrating wave power and desalination. The Waves to Water Prize convenes America’s world-class research base with an unparalleled entrepreneurial support system to create a portfolio of innovations primed for private investment and commercial scale-up.

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.