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Powering the Blue Economy™: Ocean Observing Prize logo

Powering the Blue Economy™: Ocean Observing Prize

An entire world exists beneath the waves.

Although great progress has been made in the field of ocean observation in recent years, nearly 80% of our oceans remain unmapped and unexplored. The limited battery life of ocean observation equipment is a fundamental obstacle to continued exploration.

The Powering the Blue Economy™: Ocean Observing Prize hopes to change this.

A joint endeavor of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) and the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Ocean Observing Prize is challenging innovators, dreamers, and tinkerers to develop needed technologies to better understand, map, and monitor our oceans.

Ready to take the plunge? Read more about the prize below.

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Ocean Observing Prize competitors will be tasked with developing concepts that integrate marine energy systems with ocean observing systems, such as weather buoys, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), meteorological-oceanographic (metoc) buoys, ocean observing cabled arrays, and more. These marine-energy-powered devices will effectively cut the charging cord, enabling longer deployments at sea, resulting in better data capture and a better understanding of our oceans.

Underwater graphic of an autonomous underwater vehicle (UAV)

The Ocean Observing Prize consists of two competitions designed to accelerate innovation in marine energy and ocean observation.

The first competition, the DISCOVER Competition, which is now closed, solicited novel concepts that integrated ocean observing technologies with marine energy systems.

The second competition, the DEVELOP Competition, is currently underway and is focused exclusively on the theme of hurricane monitoring. The challenge theme may vary in future iterations of the prize.

Graphic of the Ocean Observing Develop Competition for hurricane monitoring using self-charging AUVs.  Design Contest - draft plans and models - 120 days, Build Contest - develop and tank test prototype - 180 days, Splash Contest - test prototypes at sea - 90+ days.

$3 Million in Cash Prizes and In-Kind Awards

Together, the DISCOVER and DEVELOP Competitions will award up to $3 million in cash prizes.

Competitors will also enjoy access to DOE’s and NOAA’s networks of national laboratories, energy incubators and accelerators, subject matter experts, and other resources across the nation to build novel technologies that collect critical ocean data.

Important Dates

  • Submission Open: April 19, 2021
  • Tank Testing: June 2022
  • Winner Announcement and Awards: Anticipated June 2022

All dates are subject to change, including contest openings, deadlines, and announcements. Final dates for the BUILD, and SPLASH contests will be posted here and on the HeroX site.

Sign up for updates on our HeroX challenge page.

Ocean Observing Prize Goals

  • Enable collection of valuable new data. Proposed innovations should increase the coverage, resolution, and/or types of ocean and atmospheric variables that can be observed, collected, processed, and transmitted, leading to improved understanding, monitoring, and management of the ocean.
  • Generate sufficient power from marine resources. Submissions must be able to generate enough power to meet the energy needs of the ocean observing community and prove the viability of marine energy to power ocean observing activities.
  • Accelerate commercialization of marine energy systems. Traditionally, marine energy devices developed for the electrical grid can take many years to design, build, and test. The prize aims to accelerate marine energy commercialization by working at smaller scales and zeroing in on the specific energy needs of ocean observing systems.
  • Forge a diverse community of innovators. This prize will welcome new innovators into the marine energy and ocean observing space. It will also help form new partnerships and collaborations among industry, academia, and government to create innovative ocean observing technologies powered by marine energy.

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Help us accelerate innovation in ocean observing and marine renewable energy technologies.

Join the American-Made Challenge Network today!


graphic banner for Waves to Water, with a water glass in front of an ocean wave.

Solutions That Help Shape the Future

The American-Made Challenges Prize platform, administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), brings together a world-class research base with an unparalleled entrepreneurial support system—consisting of pioneering university teams, dozens of energy incubators, and 16 national laboratories—to create a sweeping portfolio of innovations primed for private investment and commercial scale-up.

Are you a visionary, facility, or potential partner? Anyone with an idea can spark transformation by participating in the American-Made Challenges.

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