The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are pleased to announce 7 winners of the DESIGN Contest, the first of three contests in the Powering the Blue Economy™: Ocean Observing Prize DEVELOP Competition. These 7 winners were selected for their innovative ideas to integrate marine renewable energy with ocean observing platforms to help us improve our ability to forecast hurricane intensity and protect coastal communities from oncoming storms.

“The innovators in the Ocean Observing Prize are developing solutions to help us protect communities at risk from dangerous hurricanes using reliable clean energy technologies,” said Kelly Speakes-Backman, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.  “Under the Biden-Harris Administration, DOE will continue to strengthen our relationship with NOAA and develop solutions to mitigate and prepare for natural disasters brought on by the climate crisis”.

The selected teams will advance to the next stage of the competition, the BUILD Contest, where they will construct working prototypes based on their designs. Teams will test their devices in a state-of-the-art wave tank at the U.S. Navy’s Maneuvering and Seakeeping (MASK) Basin in Carderock, Maryland, in early 2022. Selected teams each received a share of $400,000 in cash prizes and will compete for the remaining $2 million in the subsequent BUILD and SPLASH Contests.

The Ocean Observing Prize is a joint prize between DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office and NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System Office. The prize includes a series of competitions—beginning with the DISCOVER Competition and followed by the DEVELOP Competition—offering millions of dollars in awards to encourage rapid innovation in marine energy and ocean observation.

The following 7 winners were selected to advance to the BUILD Contest and were awarded from a prize pool of $400,000:

  • Autonomous Marine Power System (Sacramento, CA)
  • EEL Drone (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Halona WEC Based Mobile AUV Docking Station (Honolulu, HI)
  • Maiden Wave Energy Rover (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Platypus Prowler (West Palm Beach, FL)
  • Thaumas - God of the Wonders of the Sea (Menlo Park, CA)
  • Wave Powered Oceanographic Gliders (Tallahassee, FL)

“Changes in the climate, including a warming ocean, increase the risk of extreme weather, which raises the need for more robust observation systems, especially over the ocean where data is often sparse,” said Ben Friedman, Acting NOAA Administrator.  “The new tools proposed by these amazing innovators will help power our ocean observing systems, which enhance hurricane intensity forecasts, safeguard our communities, and support our Nation’s growing blue economy.”

To help support these competitors as they refine their designs and build their prototypes, teams will work with sponsoring organizations providing mentorship and training. Through their network of Blue Economy professionals, the New England Ocean Cluster will provide mentorship for competing teams as needed and help raise awareness for the prize. SeaAhead will offer access to their training sessions to competing teams and help develop the Ocean Observing Prize community, and DSA Ocean is providing a six month license to their ProteusDS software as well as access to training for use. The winning teams selected during the BUILD Contest will share a prize pool of $500,000 and will advance to the final stage of the competition, the SPLASH Contest.

In the SPLASH Contest, teams will refine their prototypes and test their systems at sea to evaluate endurance and performance in real-world conditions. Up to three grand prize winners will share a total prize pool of up to $1.5 million.

The Ocean Observing Prize is administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on behalf DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office and the Integrated Ocean Observing System Office at NOAA. Learn more about the DEVELOP Competition and contact for additional information on supporting the prize.