Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today announced the winners of $500,000 in the BUILD Contest, the second phase in the Powering the Blue Economy™: Ocean Observing Prize DEVELOP Competition. The prize challenges competitors to develop solutions that use marine energy to power hurricane-monitoring systems.  

“Marine energy can enable ocean-observing systems to stay at sea longer and explore more of our oceans, by providing on-site power,” said Kelly Speakes-Backman, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “The solutions developed in the Ocean Observing Prize will help us gather higher-quality and more complete data on our oceans, weather, and atmosphere, helping us better protect communities from hurricanes.” 

“Ocean observing systems are gathering key information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week all over the world,” said the director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service, Nicole LeBoeuf. “Harnessing the energy of waves to power our observation networks is a win-win and helps us meet some of our most critical missions. This kind of creativity is also an exciting part of the new blue economy.” 

Three teams won cash prizes for their prototypes’ potential to power ocean-observing technologies: 

  • Maiden Wave Energy LLC’s Rover (Aberdeen, Maryland) – $275,000 
  • Wave Powered Oceanographic Gliders, a partnership between Moye Consultants LLC and Wave Venture (Tallahassee, Florida) – $175,000 
  • Kevin Lu’s EEL Drone (Los Angeles, California) – $50,000 

In June, the competitors tested their early-stage prototypes in the Maneuvering and Seakeeping Basin (MASK)—also known as the U.S. Navy’s indoor ocean—at the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s facility in Carderock, Maryland. The basin holds more than 12 million gallons of water and can simulate diverse wave conditions, helping uncover the capabilities of new wave-powered technologies.  

During testing, the teams assembled their devices, and crews placed each wave-powered prototype in the MASK to see how it weathered a variety of wave conditions. This allowed the teams to demonstrate how their prototypes collect data and recharge with wave power.  

Experts evaluated each prototype’s ability to collect data, maneuverability, power, and mission compliance (like operations, safety, size, and weight). During testing, two of the prototypes powered themselves using energy they generated—showing that wave power has the potential to enhance the endurance and capability of uncrewed ocean-observing platforms. These prototypes met testing expectations and helped identify future research opportunities for marine energy-powered ocean-observing platforms.  

The organizers are now evaluating next steps for the Ocean Observing Prize and exploring how best to advance and further test these early-stage prototypes. 

Since 2019, the Ocean Observing Prize competitors have proposed new ways to integrate marine energy with ocean-observing technologies, including weather buoys, cabled arrays, and uncrewed underwater vehicles. Marine energy-powered devices could eventually lengthen deployments at sea to provide more coverage and collect higher-resolution data that forecasters can use to more accurately predict hurricane intensity and paths.   

The Ocean Observing Prize is administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on behalf of the Water Power Technologies Office in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and NOAA’s U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System Office.