Oregon-based Aquaharmonics has been awarded the $1.5 million first prize in a Department of Energy (DOE) competition aimed at jump-starting the field of wave energy.

The company was one of nine finalists in a 20-month competition to design and test scale models of wave energy converters. It took first place for a point absorber device consisting of a power takeoff mounted in a cone/cylinder-shaped hull featuring a single mooring line.

Aquaharmonics’ wave energy converter.Aquaharmonics’ wave energy converter.In tests required by the Wave Energy Prize contest, the Aquaharmonics design quintupled the energy absorption of current technology. It surpassed DOE’s goals in a contest that started with 92 teams. For more on the system, see this video on its scale model tests.

Two other teams also captured prizes. The University of California-Berkeley’s CalWave team won $500,000 for a totally submerged system featuring an elongated “wave carpet” made of non-corrosive composite materials. Sacramento’s Waveswing America took home $250,000 for its submerged, pressure-differential point absorber.

In announcing the prizes, DOE Undersecretary Franklin Orr said that the challenge for the winning teams now is to work toward scaling up their systems for future commercial use.

The Electric Power Research Institute estimates that the technically recoverable wave energy resource in the U.S. alone is about 1.1 trillion kWh/yr, or about one quarter of U.S. electricity consumption. Outside of demonstration projects, however, wave energy has yet to become a contributor to U.S. commercial electric grids.

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