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From Concept to Reality: Navigating the Challenges of Marine Energy Innovation

Converting abstract concepts to tangible prototypes presents a formidable challenge for technology innovators. It is a process that demands not only technical know-how but also a substantial investment of time and resources. This journey requires extensive collaboration, a commitment to sustained engagement, and a deep understanding of problem-solution fit. Braid Theory’s support of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) American-Made Challenges program exemplifies this effort, serving as a testament to our commitment to propelling innovative ideas from conception to real-world impact.

About American-Made Challenges

Funded by the DOE and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the American-Made Challenge program offers an opportunity for entrepreneurs to enter their clean energy solutions in competitions to win cash prizes. Each prize varies in design and amount based on the technology being pursued and the available funding. Successful candidates not only receive financial rewards but also gain access to technical insights, mentoring, and comprehensive support throughout the program.

In a collaborative effort to drive advancements in ocean observing technologies, the DOE Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) and the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) opened The Powering the Blue Economy™: Ocean Observing Prize competition in 2019. This multi-stage competition was distinctly focused on marine renewable energy solutions integrated with ocean observing platforms. Entrants in the DISCOVER competition were expected to provide fresh perspectives and innovative concepts that addressed challenges of ocean observing technologies. This stage of the competition encouraged participants to think beyond conventional boundaries and devise solutions that not only address current challenges but also lay the foundation for future advancements in the field. The DEVELOP stage consisted of three phases which called for designing, building, and testing of wave-powered prototypes. In addition to advancing wave energy solutions, the overall initiative aims to grow the innovation ecosystem focused on the blue economy.

Blue Power Connector

To support the Ocean Observing Prize, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) selected the Blue Power Connector team, led by Braid Theory with Ocean Exchange, Washington Maritime Blue, and DNV. During the competition, our role was multifaceted. We were tasked with providing comprehensive support and advisory services to each team, starting from the earliest applicants and guiding them through the various stages of the competition. Among the teams participating were two companies advised by Braid Theory, Pyro-E and Moye Consultants. The significance of the competition and the accomplishments of the teams were prominently showcased at our annual IGNITE22: Global Tech Showcase & Summit held at AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles on May 4, 2023. This carefully curated event brought together a diverse array of stakeholders, including industry leaders, investors, policymakers, and technology innovators, providing an ideal platform to highlight the transformative potential of ocean observing technologies and the broader blue economy initiatives. Simon Gore of the DOE’s Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) WPTO and Rob Cavagnaro, PNNL spokesperson, articulated the overarching goals of the Ocean Observing Prize and the strategic initiatives of the DOE's WPTO. Their insights and perspectives highlighted the strategic importance of understanding and realizing marine energy’s value in the context of supporting blue economy efforts. Davis George Moye of Moye Consulting and Kevin Lu of Pyro-E shared their perspectives on the solutions developed by their teams on the main stage. Their presentations not only highlighted the technical innovations but also touched on the broader implications for the blue economy and ocean sustainability. IGNITE22 attendees, composed of approximately 400 stakeholders, including industry experts, investors, and policymakers, gained valuable insights into the transformative potential of marine renewable energy solutions and the pivotal role of the blue economy in driving innovation and economic development.

About The Ocean Observing Prize Recipients

Drawing inspiration from nature’s systems, Pyro-E created a biomimicry Electrically Engaged unduLation (EEL) Marine Energy System which captures kinetic energy from waves and currents during movement by imitating the gait of aquatic eels. Pyro-E was a finalist in the DISCOVER competition, and DESIGN and BUILD stages. They tested their early-stage prototype during the BUILD stage at the Naval Surface Warfare Center's wave tank facility in Carderock, Maryland which helped identify future research opportunities. Additionally, through the Testing Expertise and Access for Marine Energy Research (TEAMER) program they were able to test their technology through computational modeling and simulation at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Wave Powered Oceanographic Gliders, a partnership between Moye Consultants and Wave Ventures, designed a wave-powered autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) which uses less energy than other underwater vehicles while maintaining optimal functioning. They won each stage of the American-Made Challenges Powering the Blue Economy™: Ocean Observing Prize competition and have received technical support through TEAMER streamlining their progress in the SPLASH-C contest where they are maturing their technology through testing and validating their depth control and underwater maneuvering. The next step for the team is prototype testing this summer.

On The Blue Horizon

The American-Made Challenges are one piece of a broader funding initiative for advancing marine renewable energy solutions. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 requires $120 million of federal funding to go directly towards marine energy. In addition to federal initiatives, there is also a rise in state-level support, exemplified by Senate bill SB605. The bill requires the Energy Commission to evaluate the cost, feasibility, and benefits of using wave and tidal energy. It is encouraging to see our government’s investment in emerging renewable energy solutions.

The process of turning an idea into a market-ready product is challenging, demanding a delicate balance of visionary thinking and meticulous execution. It's a dynamic interplay of strategic alignment and operational finesse, all supported by a commitment to sustained engagement and collaborative innovation. The path to success necessitates time, perseverance, and resources to keep pushing forward, creating a lasting impact for generations to come. As Davis George Moye stated, "It has taken five years to get the technology to this point, but there is nothing like watching the idea become a reality!"

At Braid Theory, we remain unwavering in our commitment to supporting engineering- and science-led solutions. Our aim is to weave together entrepreneurs, industry influencers, and corporate partners to accelerate the adoption of groundbreaking technologies, thereby driving market growth and fostering sustainable innovations. As we look ahead, we foresee the continued growth of groundbreaking initiatives that will shape the future of the blue economy.



For further information and to get involved with the DOEs efforts here are some provided links:

Power At Sea competition: and

Testing Expertise and Access for Marine Energy Research:

Water Power Technologies Office: