Entrepreneurs, developers, academic teams, and nonprofit organizations are collaboratively tackling challenges from conceptual design to business planning to open water testing.

Small Business Innovation Research

WPTO has helped fund small businesses and start-ups to codevelop marine energy and blue economy sectors. Through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, 11 applicants were awarded in Phase I in 2020. Awardees focused on markets such as ocean observation, aquaculture, and debris collection, using energy generated from waves, river currents, or ocean currents. In Phase II, four awardees spanning the markets of microgrids, energy storage, water pumping, and desalination were selected.

The Blue Economy Industry Challenge

To support blue economy start-ups, WPTO developed The Blue Economy Industry Challenge in partnership with the Economic Development Administration. Seven awardees from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and Ohio received a total of $4 million to implement ideas for accelerators, incubators, test beds, and commercialization services.

Prizes & Competitions

WPTO, with support from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), launched two prizes and a collegiate competition in 2019.

Ocean flowing into a cup.

Waves to Water Prize

The five-stage, $3.3 million Waves to Water Prize is underway to accelerate development of small-scale, wave-powered desalination systems that can be deployed in disaster scenarios or for remote communities. The winning prototypes and designs have incorporated wave attenuators and point absorbers to power water desalination systems. Teams will compete in the final ocean testing stage in 2022 off the North Carolina coast.

Illustrated map of the locations of Waves to Water applicants.

Ocean Observing Prize

Illustration of marine energy technology in the ocean.

The multiphase Ocean Observing Prize, co-led with NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System program, will award up to $3 million to competitors for designing, prototyping, and testing wave-powered autonomous technologies that collect data at sea. More than fifty teams submitted proposals in the initial phase of the contest, which sought novel ideas for integrating ocean observing platforms with marine energy. The competition continues as teams compete to design, build, and test self-charging autonomous underwater vehicles that can measure and monitor potentially destructive hurricanes.

Illustrated map of the locations of Ocean Observing applicants.
Blue logo that says "U.S. Department of Energy Marine Energy Collegiate Competition: Powering the Blue Economy"

Marine Energy Collegiate Competition

WPTO also supports the Marine Energy Collegiate Competition for undergraduate and graduate students to gain experience and connections in the fields of marine energy and the blue economy. In this first U.S. marine energy competition for students, teams pitched their business plans for linking marine energy with blue economy applications and can participate in an optional prototype build and test competition. Participants and partners represent institutions from across the United States and include international universities as well.

Map showing the MECC schools and details.

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