Over $2 Million for Wave Energy Winners
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has awarded AquaHarmonics its Wave Energy Prize which comes with a $1.5 million grand prize.
CalWave Power Technologies and Waveswing America were awarded second and third place, respectively, with $500,000 and $250,000 in cash prizes.
With more than 50 percent of the U.S. population living within 50 miles of coastlines, there is vast potential to provide clean, renewable electricity to communities and cities across the United States using wave energy, says the department.
An 18-month design-build-test competition, the Wave Energy Prize focuses on catalyzing the development of wave energy converters that will ultimately reduce the cost of wave energy.
Ninety-two teams registered for the prize beginning in April 2015. Over the course of the competition, a panel of judges ultimately identified nine finalists and two alternates, which were announced in March. These teams received up to $125,000 in seed funding to build scaled prototypes of their wave energy converter devices.
With the support of the U.S. Navy, the finalist teams tested their prototype devices at the nation's most advanced wave-making facility, the Naval Surface Warfare Center's Maneuvering and Seakeeping Basin at Carderock, Maryland.
Wave energy is produced by converting the energy from waves into electricity. The wave energy sector is in its early stages of development, and the diversity of technologies makes it difficult to evaluate the most technically and economically viable solutions. The Wave Energy Prize Competition addressed this challenge by comparing a wide range of device types and evaluating them against a threshold requirement for high energy capture.
AquaHarmonics won the contest with their WEC concept and model of a point absorber with latching/de-clutching control. Alex Hagmuller and Max Levites-Ginsburg of team AquaHarmonics are both civilian engineers and graduates of Oregon State University.
"Our goal was to build a device that would extract energy from ocean waves," Levites-Ginsburg said. "Early on, we were working out of a garage and we didn't have a lot of resources or great facilities. We approached it trying to make the best of what we had, but we didn't really have a lot. It was really surprising what we were able to achieve."
Levites-Ginsburg said they built a buoy with a generator inside, anchored to the sea floor. Any relative motion from the point on the sea floor to the elevation of the device caused the generator to spin and produce electricity.