The U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awarded additional support to the six teams competing in the BUILD Contest of the Powering the Blue Economy™: Ocean Observing Prize to advance their technology innovations. Competitors now have until June 2022 to build their systems and will each receive an additional $20,000 to help them successfully achieve their goals in this new timeline.

The Ocean Observing Prize challenges innovators to integrate marine renewable energy with ocean observation platforms. As part of WPTO’s Powering the Blue Economy initiative, the Ocean Observing Prize accelerates the development of new technologies that can help fill data gaps. These data gaps make it difficult to predict the intensity of hurricanes, for example. Competitors’ innovations could allow for more accurate weather forecasting and help better protect coastal communities from the potentially disastrous impacts of oncoming storms.

“Data from ocean observation is critical to the mitigation of the impacts of climate change and can help the United States track, predict, manage, and adapt to changes in the environment,” said WPTO Acting Director Jennifer Garson. “However, ocean-observation platforms often face power limitations, a challenge Ocean Observing Prize participants are helping to address with their marine energy-powered ocean observing systems.”

Image of a giant hurricane seen from outer space.

Climate change will likely forge more destructive hurricanes, which is why it’s important that scientists watch the oceans for signs of storms. Now, to power this critical work, the Ocean Observing Prize is helping accelerate the development of novel ocean observing technologies that run on clean, renewable ocean energy. Image Credit: NASA

Currently, competitors in the BUILD Contest are making final design changes to their systems, assembling their prototypes, and preparing to test their devices in a state-of-the-art wave tank at the U.S. Navy’s Maneuvering and Seakeeping Basin in Carderock, Maryland, in summer 2022.

To help WPTO ensure that BUILD Contest competitors have the support they need to successfully meet their goals, teams provided a detailed summary of the activities they intend to prioritize with the additional funding and time. The following six teams have been deemed eligible to receive an additional $20,000 in support:

  • Autonomous Marine Power System (Sacramento, California)
  • EEL Drone (Los Angeles, California)
  • Maiden Wave Energy Rover (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
  • Platypus Prowler (West Palm Beach, Florida)
  • Thaumas – God of the Wonders of the Sea (Menlo Park, California)
  • Wave Powered Oceanographic Gliders (Tallahassee, Florida)

In addition to more time and funding, competing teams will continue to receive hands-on mentorship and training from external partners.

At the end of the BUILD Contest, up to five teams will receive awards from a cash prize pool of $500,000. These winning teams will be eligible to test their devices at sea in the final SPLASH Contest, which is scheduled to take place in spring 2023 in the Olympic Peninsula off the coast of Washington State.

In the SPLASH Contest, hosted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, teams will refine their prototypes and evaluate the endurance and performance of their systems in real-world conditions. In this last stage of the competition, 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 of WPTO and the Integrated Ocean Observing System Office at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Learn more about the BUILD Contest, and contact for information on how your organization can get involved as a sponsor of WPTO prizes.