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As part of today’s $53 million announcement by U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) research and development projects, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) announced the selection of 20 new projects across 8 states, totaling nearly $4.4 million in funding.

The selected small businesses are receiving Phase I Release 2 grants for innovations that demonstrate technical feasibility during the first phase of their research. Most Phase I awards are for $200,000, covering a period of less than one year.

WPTO will fund the following awards under four topics:

Innovative Sensing and Data Platforms for Water and Hydropower

SBIR

  • Flying Gybe Inc. (Portland, OR) Correlation of Remote Sensing Water Quality Maps with an In-Situ Sensor Network: Gybe’s project will use satellite imagery to provide hydropower operators with crucial water quality parameters such as turbidity and sediment loads, as well as information about issues that could adversely affect operations like algal blooms or invasive species infestation that may result in the clogging of turbine screens. 
  • Natel Energy, Inc. (Alameda, CA) Hydropower Decision-Support with Machine Learning and Satellite Driven Forecasts: This project will leverage satellite data and machine learning innovations to improve the accuracy, reliability, and resiliency of river forecasts. These insights will enable hydropower utilities to increase revenue, mitigate risk to infrastructure and communities, and improve grid flexibility to enable greater adoption of renewable energy sources.
  • Physical Optics Corporation (Torrance, CA) Dam Inspection Artificial Intelligence System: Critical failures in many dams can be prevented by low-cost automated inspection systems. A new artificial intelligence system is proposed, which will focus on dam inspection by using small drones to perform regular automated safety and security checks to enhance the safety performance and value of hydropower systems.
  • Intellisense Systems, Inc. (Torrance, CA) Hydropower Safety and Efficiency Sensor: To improve dam efficiency and safety, an advanced sensor system is proposed to collect hydrological, environmental, and ecological data. These data will enable better operations efficiency and safety for dams and other hydropower systems.

STTR

  • INFISYS Inc. (Knoxville, TN) Value of Information and Data Management Platform Promoting Modern Data Analysis Utilization: Streamflow forecasts provide valuable guidance for hydropower operators, but uncertainty and multiple data sources make it difficult to make decisions based on the forecasts. Partnering with RTI International, INFISYS will develop a forecast verification framework that includes machine learning tools to identify the ‘best’ forecast guidance for a given set of conditions.

Co-Development of Marine Energy Technology at Smaller Scales

SBIR

  • Oscilla Power, Inc. (Seattle, WA) Integrated Wave Power Charging Capability for Ocean Observing Vehicles: Ocean-based observing operations are currently limited by access to power. Oscilla’s project will center on development of a wave-powered, self-charging capability for autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to extend the range of their missions, which could potentially enable unlimited ocean-based observing as well as more comprehensive surveillance for military operations.
  • Ocean Motion Technologies, Inc. (San Diego, CA) Leveraging Co-Development for the Energy Capture Subsystem of a Small-Scale Adaptive Wave Energy Converter: Current small-scale power supplies at sea perform sub-optimally due to high maintenance costs in the harsh marine environment, and these challenges severely limit the potential to utilize the ocean. This project plans to fabricate a cost-effective, adaptive ocean wave energy device that can optimize its power output based on ambient environments.
  • Columbia Power Technologies, Inc. (Charlottesville, VA) Wave Energy Power Generation System for Hybrid Oil and Gas Drill Rigs: Columbia Power will deliver a preliminary wave energy conversion prototype—the RigRAY design—to validate a commercially viable path to providing renewable power to remote offshore oil and gas platforms. The ultimate goal is to partially or completely replace on-board, carbon-based power systems used for powering offshore operations in the Blue Economy.
  • SAHT Energy, LLC (Eugene, OR) MHK Co-Development: Constructed waterways represent a huge, virtually untapped potential source of carbon-free energy that can be harvested using existing infrastructure with minimal environmental impacts and with potential to scale. This SBIR research will investigate constructed waterway flow conditions such as the critical point, the needs of irrigators, and whether the company’s patented Suction Augmented Hydrokinetic Turbine can effectively harvest this power at a favorable levelized cost of electricity.
  • Triton Systems, Inc. (Chelmsford, MA) Wave Energy Harvesting to Power Ocean Buoys: Many activities within the Blue Economy benefit from unattended, powered buoy and mooring systems. However, available power for these buoys is currently limited; the proposed project will focus on developing a wave energy converter (WEC) design that can potentially double the available power and increase the capability of many types of buoys used in the ocean today.
  • Resolute Marine Energy, Inc. (Boston, MA) Nereus™ – Powering AUVs using Ocean Waves: Resolute Marine is developing an innovative wave-driven powering system, called Nereus™, that can provide a locally generated, reliable power source for underwater docking and recharge stations.
  • iMetalx Group LLC (San Francisco, CA) Marine Energy Ocean Observation and Unmanned System Recharging Station: iMetalx is developing a Deep Ocean Sensing Platform to meet observation needs, particularly those within the Blue Economy. Marine industries that could benefit from this platform include but are not limited to weather modeling, ocean mining, maritime surveillance, and aquaculture.
  • Aegis Technology Inc. (Santa Ana, CA) Modular and Low-Cost Marine Current Energy Converters: Aegis Technology Inc. has teamed up with an end-user partner, Bioenno Tech, to co-develop a novel class of transportable, small-scale marine energy systems. Aegis’ project will focus on development of a modular, low-cost current energy converter, which they plan to combine with Bioenno’s back-end energy storage module to integrate into a renewable energy system.

STTR

  • 3newable LLC (Portola Valley, CA) Preventing Biofouling of Oceanographic Sensors Using Ultraviolet Illumination Powered by a Compact Wave Energy Converter: Oceanography measurements cease when power is unavailable or when growth of unwanted organisms (biofouling) blocks sensors. 3renewable’s wave energy generator design harnesses the motion of ocean waves to generate electricity to power ultraviolet light emitting diodes that prevent biofouling, thereby reducing the number of expensive ship visits for maintenance.
  • E-Wave Technologies LLC (Poughkeepsie, NY) A Self-Reactive Marine Energy Converter to Power Ocean Aquaculture: E-Wave Technologies and Virginia Tech will collaborate on the development of an innovative WEC design to power ocean aquaculture. The team plans to design and deploy a 35–40 kilowatt flap-type WEC system. This system will be hinged to a fish feed buoy and will provide power for feeding and monitoring systems of an open-ocean fish farm with reduced cost, increased automation, and minimal environmental impacts.
  • ROI Engineering LLC (Laguna Hills, CA) Co-Development of Oscillating Water Column and Offshore Power Station: ROI Engineering LLC plans to develop the design for a 10-kilowatt, low-cost oscillating water column WEC from fiberglass materials, as well as a high-speed generator and a wireless charging station for Autonomous Underwater Vehicle or Unmanned Underwater Vehicle applications.

Waterway Debris Remediation Powered by Marine Energy

SBIR

  • Littoral Power Systems Inc. (New Bedford, MA) Riverine Surface Debris Removal System Powered by Marine Hydrokinetics: Littoral Power Systems (LPS) will develop its current energy-powered HydroCatch system to catch plastic debris in rivers before it enters the oceans. Adapted for low-velocity currents, LPS’s technology is scalable to large, heavily navigated rivers and will focus on delivering a system capable of protecting ocean-based food and recreation sources.
  • Visionary Products Inc. (Draper, UT) Context-Aware Robotic Trash Boom: Rivers and canals can be a major source of pollution, depositing floating trash into sensitive ecosystems where it remains for decades or longer. Leveraging machine learning, this project will explore a cost-effective, manufacturable, and maintainable robotic solution for monitoring and removing floating trash from waterways.

Affordable, Grid-Friendly, High-Torque Direct-Drive Generators (joint topic with the Advanced Manufacturing and Wind Energy Technologies Office)

SBIR

  • Fastwatt LLC (Clifton Park, NY) Compact Power Converter with High Waveform Quality for Direct-Drive Renewable Energy Generators: Scale-up of offshore wind turbines to larger sizes can reduce their cost of electricity; technology development of components for grid interface, such as the power converter and transformer, are critical drivers for this. This project plans to develop a novel integrated power converter-transformer that is twice as small as and 10 times lighter than existing products, which could provide superior waveforms and power quality on the machine and grid side
  • RCT Systems, Inc. (Linthicum, Maryland) MV SiC Based Power Conditioning Systems: RCT Systems will develop a larger than 10 MW wind turbine interface without the use of bulky 60 Hz transformers, achieving up to 80% reduction in volume and 50% reduction in weight, using MV SiC modules operating at a frequency 10 times higher than current state of the art silicon devices.  Such interface will be useful to water power turbines as well.

Successful Phase I grantees will be eligible to apply for Phase II awards in fiscal year 2021, which will allow them to develop novel prototypes or processes to validate their Phase I research findings. Phase II grants can range from $1,100,000 to $1,600,000, with a duration of up to two years.

Small businesses play a major role in spurring innovation and creating jobs in the U.S. economy. The SBIR and STTR programs were created by Congress to leverage small businesses to advance innovation at federal agencies. Information on the DOE SBIR and STTR programs is available on the Office of Science SBIR website. Additional information can be found on the EERE SBIR/STTR website as well.