WPTO’s Waves to Water Prize—the first prize to launch under the Powering the Blue Economy initiative—is a five-stage, $3.3-million competition to accelerate the development of small, modular, wave-powered desalination systems capable of providing potable drinking water in disaster-relief scenarios and to remote coastal locations. Since its launch in 2019, the prize has attracted more than 120 submissions from teams across the nation, with partners across the globe, spanning academia, large corporations, small start-ups, and individuals.

More than 1.1 billion people lack access to potable water. In disaster-relief scenarios and remote coastal locations, accessing fresh drinking water can be particularly challenging. The Waves to Water Prize was initiated to help address this challenge. In 2020, WPTO announced a new stage, ADAPT, to provide competitors more time to adapt their novel designs to the selected site of the final, DRINK stage of the competition. This final stage is set to take place at Jennette’s Pier in North Carolina in 2022.

In 2019, more than 60 teams submitted their wave-powered desalination system ideas during the CONCEPT stage of the competition. CONCEPT stage winners featured a range of technologies, incorporating novel materials like inflatable materials and collapsible systems, and included devices such as easily deployable wave attenuators, point absorbers, and oscillating wave surge converters. Following the CONCEPT stage, WPTO launched the DESIGN stage. More than 40 competitors participated in this stage, developing technical plans and supporting analyses to demonstrate their concept for a wave-powered desalination system, including its design feasibility and performance.

Waves to Water Prize consists of five stages.
The Waves to Water Prize consists of five stages and culminates with finalists testing their devices in the open ocean.
Courtesy of NREL

In June 2020, 17 DESIGN stage winners received a total of $800,000 in prizes. The third stage—ADAPT—opened shortly thereafter. During the summer and autumn of 2020, teams optimized their desalination system designs to meet site conditions at Jennette’s Pier in anticipation of the final two prize stages, CREATE and DRINK, which will open in 2021. Teams will build functional prototypes of their systems in the CREATE stage, and the selected final competitors will test their devices in the open water at Jennette’s Pier, competing for $1 million.

The Waves to Water Prize has the potential to advance solutions that meet the needs of several blue economy sectors, including seawater desalination, as well as coastal resiliency and disaster recovery. While the focus of this prize is specific to meeting the needs of remote communities and improving disaster response, WPTO also encourages innovative ideas that can advance marine energy technology readiness for cost-competitive applications of both small-scale and municipal-scale water production. In supporting competitors to demonstrate initial viability through this prize, WPTO aims to lay the groundwork for additional research and attract other capital to support the development and deployment of wave-energy-powered desalination.

Learn more about the Waves to Water Prize.

For additional information, contact Al LiVecchi.

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