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Waves to Water Prize logo

Waves to Water Prize

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) launched the Waves to Water Prize to encourage the development of small, modular, cost-competitive desalination systems. After five stages and $3.3 million in awards, the Waves to Water Prize has helped accelerate research and development of wave energy converters capable of providing clean water, which could help in disaster and recovery scenarios, as well as in water-scarce coastal and island locations. In April 2022, the prize concluded with the DRINK Finale, where one Grand Prize winner was selected and all four final teams were awarded for specific accomplishments building their wave-powered water makers. Learn more about competitors’ cutting-edge innovations and how they could help address coastal resiliency challenges.

Now, as the nation invests in more clean energy technology, DOE has a responsibility to prioritize serving these too-often-overlooked communities. The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize fits into President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims to deliver 40% of climate investment benefits to disadvantaged communities and inform equitable research, development, and deployment within DOE.

OverviewSponsors & PartnersDRINK Finale

The Powering the Blue EconomyTM Waves to Water Prize aimed to accelerate innovation in wave energy powered desalination systems. These technologies hold the potential to deliver clean water to communities for disaster relief purposes, and to remote communities throughout the globe.

Over the last three years, the competition also provided innovators with a pathway from initial concept to technical design, to prototyping. This prize represents the first time the Department of Energy supported a competition to develop and test devices that can turn ocean water into drinking water using the natural energy in the ocean itself.

Photo of a young girl drinking a glass of water.
Graphic of the Waves to Water contest phases; Concept - propose a wave powered system, Design - develop detailed plan and model, Create - demonstrate working principles, and Drink - test & demonstrate in the ocean.

The final DRINK Stage concluded in April 2022, with the four finalist teams safely and successfully deploying their wave-powered desalination devices in the waters surrounding Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, North Carolina.

The Waves to Water Prize is the result of a partnership between the Department of Energy and Coastal Studies Institute, which hosted the DRINK Finale. These organizations also worked closely to help ensure a fair and safe competition—successfully installing and retrieving competitors’ wave energy desalination systems.

The American-Made Challenges Prize platform, administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, brings together America’s world-class research base with its unparalleled entrepreneurial support system – consisting of pioneering university teams, dozens of energy incubators, and 17 national laboratories – to create a sweeping portfolio of innovations primed for private investment and commercial scale-up.

Important Dates

  • CONCEPT Stage: June 13, 2019 – September 11, 2019
  • CONCEPT Stage Winners Announcement: November 14, 2019
  • DESIGN Stage: November 14, 2019 – March 13, 2020
  • DESIGN Stage Winners Announcement: June 8, 2020
  • ADAPT Stage: June 8, 2020 – November 30, 2020
  • CREATE Stage: February 9, 2021 – August 9, 2021
  • CREATE Stage Winners Announcement: September 9, 2021
  • DRINK Stage: September 2021 – April 2022
  • Grand Prize Winner Announcement: April 2022

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Who Can Participate?

Entrepreneurs, technologists, hardware developers, and investors are all welcome and encouraged to join the American-Made Challenge Network and be part of the ground-breaking change that will accelerate innovation in desalination and marine renewable energy technologies.

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

Solutions that help shape the future

Are you a thinker, entrepreneur, facility or potential partner? Anyone with an innovative idea can help promote transformation by by participating in the American-Made Challenges.

Reach out to the organizers to find out how you can get involved.Follow this Challenge