Prize Announcements at White House Ocean Summit

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Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy

The Water Wire


November 19, 2019

WPTO Prize Announcements at White House Ocean Summit

Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) participated in a multi-agency public-private partnership summit, focused on accelerating science, technology and research in the oceans. As part of this summit, DOE announced exciting developments in its two marine renewable energy prizes. The Waves to Water Prize awarded $200,000 to competitors to conclude the Stage 1 CONCEPT portion of the prize. The announcement also marked the opening of the Stage 2 DESIGN competition, which challenges competitors to advance their innovative solutions for wave-powered desalination systems by providing modeling documentation and a plan to advance their solution through the remaining stages of the prize.

The Powering the Blue Economy™ Ocean Observing Prize, a joint DOE-National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) prize which challenges innovators to pair marine renewable energy technologies with ocean observing platforms, is also now open for submissions. The $3 million prize will include a series of competitions over several years to encourage rapid innovation in the fields of marine energy and ocean observations to develop solutions that meet the needs of ocean researchers, agencies, explorers, and other end-users.

A Powering the Blue Economy™ Ocean Observing Prize webinar and Waves to Water Prize webinar will be held on December 13, 2019. Listen to an October interview with Federal News Radio about the two prizes here and learn more about Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) prizes and competitions here.

Awardees Selected in Water Power Technologies Office $24.9 Million Funding Opportunity

On October 31, 2019, DOE announced awardees of a $24.9 million funding opportunity to drive innovative industry-led technology solutions to advance the marine and hydrokinetics industry and increase hydropower’s ability to serve as a flexible grid resource. Selections were divided into four areas of interest:

  • Hydropower Operational Flexibility;
  • Low Head Hydropower and In-Stream Hydrokinetic Technologies;
  • Advancing Wave Energy Device Design; and
  • Marine Energy Centers Research Infrastructure Upgrades

Selection criteria for the awardees was based on their ability to increase affordability of hydropower and marine energy, strengthen U.S. manufacturing competitiveness, and build on DOE-wide storage initiatives, which focus on improving the capabilities of technologies to deliver value to the grid.

United States Announces $1.21 Billion to Support Blue Economy

At the October “Our Ocean” conference in Norway, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach announced 23 new commitments valued at 1.21 billion dollars to promote sustainable fisheries; combat marine debris; and support marine science, observation, and exploration. The event was the sixth in a series of high-level, by-invitation conferences launched by the United States in 2014 for government and private sector stakeholders from around the world to identify solutions to improve ocean productivity, prosperity, and security.

WPTO’s Powering the Blue Economy™ initiative explores how to unlock the opportunities mentioned above for ocean science, national security, and other maritime industries by exploring new applications for marine energy.

powering the blue economy logo in text.

New and innovative marine energy technologies could help reduce power constraints, costs, and address the needs of coastal and ocean energy end users. The United States remains committed to working with partners from all countries and sectors to support a healthy and productive ocean and a sustainable blue economy.

U.S. Department of Energy to Sponsor ICOE 2020

The Energy Department is sponsoring the International Conference on Ocean Energy (ICOE) 2020, whose theme is Energizing a Powerful Blue Economy. Through DOE’s sponsorship of ICOE, WPTO will help develop ICOE’s program and host side events, including the first-ever Marine Energy Collegiate Competition. Hosted by the National Hydropower Association, ICOE will be co-located with NHA’s annual Water Power Week in Washington, D.C. The event is being held at the Marriott Marquis May 19–21, 2020. The United States has never hosted the ICOE and it has only taken place outside of Europe once since its inception in 2006. Abstracts for next year’s conference are now due this Friday, November 22, 2019 (extended deadline).

Student Teams Selected to Participate in the Marine Energy Collegiate Competition

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, supported by WPTO, announced the teams selected to participate in the first ever Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC). The MECC challenges interdisciplinary teams of undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of programs to identify new market opportunities and ways for marine energy to reduce energy limitations across the growing blue economy.

Man on a boat waving to the camera.

The Pacific Marine Energy Center and Oregon State University’s Design Engineering Laboratory will host a webinar for the teams on November 20, 2019 to walk through different methodologies that will guide students through the design process.

Energy Department Announces $80 Million for New Grid Modernization Lab Call Projects

DOE recently announced the results of the 2019 Grid Modernization Lab Call with funding of approximately $80 million (subject to appropriations) over three years. Included in this funding is the “Water Risk for the Bulk Power System: Asset to Grid Impacts” project that will work to improve the reliability and resilience of the power sector by enabling utilities to evaluate impacts and risks associated with water resources. The project will create an analysis platform that can provide environmental and economic benefits by aiding short-term operational and long-term investment decisions.

The 2019 Grid Modernization Lab Call is the latest solicitation released over the past four years by the Grid Modernization Initiative (GMI), a crosscutting effort that focuses public and private partnerships to develop a portfolio of new tools and technologies that measure, analyze, predict, protect, and control the grid of the future. This funding aims to strengthen, transform, and improve the resilience of energy infrastructure to ensure the nation’s access to reliable and secure sources of energy now and in the future.

New HydroWIRES Laboratory Projects

WPTO’s HydroWIRES initiative launched new research projects at five of DOE's National Laboratories to develop innovative water power technologies that can support the rapidly evolving grid.

HydroWIRES logo in text.

A total of $5 million has been awarded across four topic areas that focus on operational flexibility and environmental requirements, hydropower production cost models, quantifying reliability and resilience, and an open topic for new ideas that align with a forthcoming HydroWIRES roadmap. Learn more about each of the awarded projects, project leads, and supporting National Laboratories under the “Updates” tab here.

New IEA White Paper on Flexible Hydropower

In collaboration with WPTO, Argonne National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), supported the International Energy Agency (IEA) Technology Collaboration Programme on Hydropower to release a white paper on the value of flexibility in enabling renewable integration and hydropower’s capabilities to provide this flexibility across a range of time scales. Flexible Hydropower Providing Value to Renewable Energy Integration provides an international perspective on hydropower flexibility, including examples from Europe and Australia. U.S. Representatives from WPTO’s HydroWIRES initiative served as core contributors on the report, which will serve as the basis for a future IEA Hydropower Roadmap.

A New Way to Modernize Irrigation Infrastructure and Generate Renewable Energy

In 2019, PNNL and Idaho National Laboratory partnered to evaluate hydropower's potential to enable and enhance the modernization of U.S. agricultural irrigation systems. By looking at existing irrigation modernization projects through the lens of renewable energy and water use efficiency stakeholders, the team found that scalable hydropower technology or optimization solutions could enable more rapid modernization and unlock greater benefits. Read more.

Tethys Engineering: New Database for Technical Aspects of Marine Renewable Energy (MRE)

PNNL launched Tethys Engineering in September 2019 to support WPTO’s efforts to advance the MRE industry by archiving documents and information from around the world. The new database was developed to share resources and learning related to deploying wave, tidal, or other MRE devices in corrosive, high-energy marine environments.

TethysEngineering Logo in text

The database design is replicated from Tethys, which has been used for 10 years to explore possible environmental effects of the MRE industry. To learn more, visit or contact Jonathan Whiting at

In Case You Missed It

Apply Now: Marine and Hydrokinetic Graduate Student Research Program

Applications are now open through December 9, 2019 for the newly established Marine and Hydrokinetic Graduate Student Research Program. Administered by WPTO and the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), the program is open to full-time doctoral students with a research thesis and/or dissertation at a U.S. institution. The program is designed to advance the graduate student’s overall doctoral thesis while providing access to the expertise, resources, and capabilities available at DOE offices, National Laboratories, industry, and other approved facilities where the participant will conduct part of their research. Learn more about the details of the program here.