Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with NOAA, announced the 11 winners of the first “DISCOVER”, stage of the Powering the Blue EconomyTM: Ocean Observing Prize.

The competition is designed to spur technology innovation, allow for easier and/or cheaper data collection across the 80% of the world’s oceans that remain unexplored, and contribute to the growth of the blue economy.

“The United States can harness science and technological advances to increase our understanding and effective management of the ocean environment at a level of detail and geographic scale never before possible,” said Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Daniel R Simmons. “Through innovation we can help unlock the potential of the ocean to provide both energy and water across the country.” 

The DISCOVER stage, first announced at the White House Ocean Science and Technology Summit in November 2019, 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, for entries that don't fit neatly into the other categories.

The innovations and new methods of the winning DISCOVER entries can help give scientists a greater understanding of the world’s oceans, allowing them to better predict and track tropical storms that jeopardize lives, monitor fish stocks that communities depend on for sustenance, alert coastal areas of deadly and destructive tsunamis, and improve the health and livelihoods of coastal communities.

Of the selected winning teams, 10 will receive $10,000 each, and the grand prize winner, CalWave Power Technologies Inc., will receive $25,000. Some of the winning ideas include:

  • A self-charging light-weight power, data and sensor node enabling buoy that can serve ocean observing and potentially aquaculture needs
  • A mobile wave energy conversion platform that provides power for oceanographic sensors and autonomous underwater vehicles
  • An underwater backscatter that reduces the power consumption of underwater communication by one million times using acoustics.

“A strong and thriving Blue Economy demands innovation as NOAA seeks to expand it, along with regaining international leadership in global environmental observations and Earth-system modeling,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator. “Our partnership with the Department of Energy will yield exciting projects, and I look forward to seeing how far these ocean pioneers can take their ideas.”

The subsequent DEVELOP stage will focus on a subset of these themes and offer up to $3 million in prizes for those who successfully design, build, and test their systems. Participation in the DEVELOP stage is not limited to those who participated or won prizes under the DISCOVER stage.

To meet the goals and administer the prize, DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the NOAA-led U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System.

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 world’s oceans.

To learn more about the prize and the rules, visit the prize page.