American-Made Challenges

Waves to Water

The Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will be launching a new prize, aligned with the recently announced Water Security Grand Challenge. The Waves to Water prize will provide up to $2.5 million in cash prizes, engage a wide variety of competitors, and accelerate early stage technologies through a series of contests to demonstrate small, modular, cost-competitive desalination systems that use the power of ocean waves to provide potable drinking water to remote and coastal communities. The prize will advance the emerging community of problem solvers and technologists working to pair wave power technology with water systems, as well provide new technology options to solve water security challenges.


The prize will consist of four stages, aimed to support concepts through demonstration, with the final stage culminating in a contest where developers will deploy their solutions and compete across a variety of metrics.


stage 1 marker - a cup of water with a single wave icon

Stage 1: Ideation Contest
The first stage will engage competitors, experts, and industry to assess different design concepts and provide input. The best ideas will be awarded cash prizes and advance to the next stage.


stage 2 marker - a cup of water with a dual wave icon

Stage 2: Detailed Technical Submission
Prize winners from Stage 1 will be required to provide a technical report describing the details of their solution. Teams that demonstrate they meet the technical requirements to build a functioning prototype will be awarded a cash prize.


stage 3 marker - a cup of water with a triple wave icon

Stage 3: Prototype Build
The winners from Stage 2 will build the most critical component of their system in advance of the demonstration contest. Teams will provide a video to validate that they have completed building their key operating system prototype.


stage 4 marker - a cup of water with a quadruple wave icon

Stage 4: Demonstration Contest
Winning teams from Stage 3 will enter the field-testing competition, where they will compete to meet a set number of requirements and produce the most drinking water. Winners will be awarded cash prizes and given access to other resources to help commercialize their solutions.


The American-Made Challenges Prize platform, administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, provides the structure and resources needed to move ideas from initial concept, to technical design, to prototyping, to field-tested systems that provide clean, abundant drinking water using only waves as a power source. This platform brings together America’s world-class research base with its 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.


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.



When can I participate in this prize challenge?


DOE is working to launch the Waves to Water prize very soon! Please check back to learn more about start dates and plans for the program.


And right now, DOE has a Request for Information open on its Waves to Water prize and welcomes comments and input from the public before the final rules are published. The RFI will close on March 15, 2019 at 5pm ET.

How will innovation be accelerated?

In November 2017, Secretary Perry authorized Agreements for Commercializing Technology (ACT) for national laboratories, which enables flexible financial arrangements between industry and national labs. Using this mechanism, DOE can efficiently move innovations from idea to commercialization faster than they would in a typical research and development or government funding program. Testing and development capabilities of the national laboratories will bring world-class research expertise and analytic tools to U.S. entrepreneurs.

Photo by Johnny McClung on Unsplash

This prize is the first to be announced as part of the Department of Energy’s Water Security Grand Challenge, which is focused on advancing transformational technology and innovation to meet the global need for secure and affordable water. The prize is aligned with multiple Water Security Grand Challenge goals, including:

  • By 2030, launch desalination technologies that deliver cost-competitive clean water.
  • By 2030, develop small, modular energy-water systems for urban, rural, tribal, national security, and disaster response settings.