Marine Energy Program

Powering the Blue Economy Initiative

Project NameNational Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Hydraulic and Electric Reverse Osmosis Wave Energy Converter (HERO WEC)

Project TeamNational Renewable Energy Laboratory (lead) and Coastal Studies Institute 

Participating Communities: Boulder, Colorado, with in-water testing in Nags Head, North Carolina

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The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) deployed its first wave-powered desalination test device in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Researchers and crews tested the Hydraulic and Electric Reverse Osmosis Wave Energy Converter (HERO WEC) twice over the year, successfully demonstrating a wave energy converter deployment and producing desalinated water. Demonstrations like this provide critical lessons learned related to deployment, installation, operations, and wave energy converter design reliability. 

With help from the Coastal Studies Institute, NREL deployed the HERO WEC for the first time in February 2022 from Jennette’s Pier—the same location where Waves to Water Prize finalists tested their wave-powered desalination prototypes. This first deployment prepared the crew to safely install and deploy each of the prize finalists’ prototypes during the DRINK Finale in April 2022. NREL created the HERO WEC alongside teams competing in the prize, and while the NREL researchers were not competitors, they did abide by the prize guidelines to better understand what was required of competitors.  

NREL researchers then deployed the HERO WEC a second time in August 2022. During this test, the HERO WEC spent more time in the water, collecting data to advance NREL’s research on small-scale wave energy converters. The team also had the opportunity to test the electrical power take-off system (which converts wave energy into electricity to pump water through a reverse osmosis system) in the ocean for the first time, and the device ultimately produced desalinated water.  

NREL anticipates more in-water tests for the HERO WEC and will continue refining the device’s design. The HERO WEC is helping advance marine renewable energy and desalination technologies through device documentation (like drawings, parts, and data), which will be publicly available in Fiscal Year 2023. 

Powering the Blue Economy Initiative Projects