November 18, 2019

DOE Offers Prize Funding for Marine Energy Technologies

PNNL serving as technical shepherd to industry entrepreneurs

A composite image of various research areas within the biological sciences division.

Photo: Silas Baisch

The Powering the Blue Economy Ocean Observing Prize is now accepting applications for concepts that integrate marine energy and ocean observing technologies. This first stage of the prize, the Discover Competition, has a $125,000 cash pool prize and seeks out innovative solutions that address energy challenges in collecting ocean data.

This prize is a multi-agency effort. PNNL is collaborating with the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO), the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and National Renewable Energy Laboratory to both design and execute the prize. The ocean is still largely unexplored but changing faster than ever. The need for new ways to monitor the ocean has never been greater.

Industry and technological developers will vie for prize awards in two separate competitions. The first competition, Discover, calls for original ideas related to five thematic areas that cover the breadth of applications for marine energy and ocean observing integration: unmanned systems; underwater communications and navigation; extreme environments; buoys, floats, and tags; and Blue Sea ideas to for those concepts that don’t align to one of the other four.

The second competition, Develop, will focus on one or two thematic challenges and task competitors to design, build, and test their concepts. An estimated $3 million will be awarded through the Discover and Develop Competitions of the Ocean Observing Prize.

PNNL’s Role

PNNL is leading the technical aspects and structure of the Ocean Observing Prize. Simon Geerlofs, a PNNL coastal sciences project manager, and David Hume, a marine energy manager in PNNL coastal sciences, have been working with team members at NREL and EERE to build the prize structure and oversee its execution.

“We are looking for innovative ideas to connect marine energy to an ocean observation device,” Geerlofs said. “We are searching for entrepreneurs to think out-of-the-box to develop unique solutions that open new possibilities for ocean observing.”

DOE’s Powering the Blue Economy Initiative features a portfolio of projects and funding opportunities that apply marine renewable energy to a variety of non-grid applications, such as desalination, ocean observing, and offshore aquaculture.

For more information on the prize, go to


About PNNL

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on its distinguishing strengths in chemistry, Earth sciences, biology and data science to advance scientific knowledge and address challenges in sustainable energy and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit For more information on PNNL, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Published: November 18, 2019