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18. WATER TECHnologies

Maximum Phase I Award Amount: $200,000

Maximum Phase II Award Amount: $1,100,000

Accepting SBIR Phase I Applications: YES

Accepting STTR Phase I Applications: YES


EERE’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) ( works with national laboratories, industry, universities, and other federal agencies to conduct research and development activities through competitively selected, directly funded, and cost-shared projects. WPTO pioneers research and development efforts in both marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) and hydropower technologies to improve performance, lower cost and ultimately support the United States' ability to sustainably meet its growing energy demand. MHK technologies capture energy from waves, tides, ocean, and river currents, as well as from ocean thermal gradients. Hydropower and MHK technologies generate renewable electricity that supports domestic economic prosperity and energy security while enhancing the reliability and resiliency of the US power grid.


For FY 2021 solicitation, WPTO is seeking applications for MHK technologies only. MHK technologies are at an early stage of development because of the fundamental challenges of generating power from dynamic, low-velocity, and high-density waves and currents, while surviving in corrosive marine environments. These challenges are intensified by high costs and lengthy permitting processes associated with in-water testing. To achieve the mission and help to realize the vision, the MHK Program must support research and development (R&D) efforts that lead to significant reductions in the cost of MHK energy that enable industry to be competitive in U.S. electricity markets.


Applications to ether subtopic must:

·         Propose a tightly structured program which includes technical milestones that demonstrate clear progress, are aggressive but achievable, and are quantitative;

·         Include projections for price and/or performance improvements that are tied to a baseline;

·         Explicitly and thoroughly differentiate the proposed innovation with respect to existing commercially available products or solutions;

·         Include a preliminary cost analysis; and

·         Justify all performance claims with theoretical predictions and/or relevant experimental data.


Note: In addition to the sub-topics (a) and (b) below, WPTO is supporting subtopic e under Topic 20 – Joint Topic: CABLE Materials and Applications entitled Electric Systems—Generators and Motors.


Grant applications are sought only in the following subtopics:


a.      Co-Development of Marine Energy Technology at Smaller Scales (CMETTS)

This subtopic seeks proposals for the development and design of new marine energy prototypes specific to the needs of an identified end user in the blue economy.


CMETSS seeks to advance near-term marine energy opportunities in the blue economy by supporting the development of solutions tightly coupled to end-user needs. Specifically, this subtopic seeks to support the development of industry projects that link marine energy technologies together with blue economy energy end users to co-develop solutions specific to energy constraints.

A common underlying input for many of the activities in the blue economy is energy: fuel for ships, batteries for underwater vehicles, or high-pressure seawater for desalination systems. While some activities have access to cheap and reliable sources of energy, others do not. Energy inaccessibility limits operations and adds unnecessary costs. Removing or reducing these energy constraints through energy innovation could open new pathways for sustainable economic development.


Recognizing this opportunity and the potential for marine energy to ease energy constraints, WPTO released a report in 2019 titled “Powering the Blue Economy: Exploring Opportunities for Marine Renewable Energy in Maritime Markets” [1]. The report describes eight non-grid applications where marine energy could provide consistent, reliable power. This report serves as the foundation for the recently launched Powering the Blue Economy Initiative that supports R&D for non-grid applications of marine and hydrokinetic energy. Blue economy markets present new opportunities and unfamiliar applications of marine and hydrokinetic energy technology developers. Upfront engagement with end-users and coastal communities is essential to successful technology integration to achieve design goals.

Moreover, applications of marine energy are not limited to electricity generation and can include marine energy for propulsion or pumping. The CMETSS topic is market agnostic but requires SBIR Phase I applicants to make a case for their proposed application through an initial analysis of the market’s value and broader impact in their proposal. Should the project be awarded, a more refined market analysis will be required as a deliverable during the period of performance.


In FY 2021, applicants to this subtopic are strongly encouraged to explore new co-development topics that are not duplicative with other efforts underway with WPTO such as the Ocean Observing Prize DEVELOP Competition [2] focused on wave energy powered rechargeable autonomous underwater vehicles and solutions fit for the Waves to Water Prize [3] developing wave energy powered desalination suited for disaster relief and recovery.


Areas of interest including and beyond applications cited in the Powering the Blue Economy report can include, but are not limited to, lightweight devices, short duration deployments, disposable materials, or other novel and innovative features.


Applicants must identify and demonstrate at least one end-user whom they will work with during the project. WPTO encourages engaging with end users to understand their power requirements and the functional requirements required. As an example, of the type of engagements the program has done with end-users, please see the published “Enabling Power at Sea: Opportunities for Expanded Ocean Observations through Marine Renewable Energy Integration” [4]. The identified end-use partner(s) may be listed as project participant(s). Applicants must demonstrate that a prototype, with an identified partner, can be designed and built with funds provided in Phase II.


An assessment of the proposed marine and hydrokinetic resource necessary for energy harvesting for the technology should be provided in the Phase I application and refined during the period of performance. While the system should be designed for a particular end-user for the purpose of this solicitation, the solution should demonstrate potential for applicability for other applications or purposes.


It is expected that Phase I work would be centered on end-user and customer discovery for the proposed concept; collecting end-user or customer requirements; converting collected customer requirements into system design requirements; using those design requirements to inform preliminary prototype design; and performing preliminary proof-of-concept testing or modeling of system components. One of the deliverables for Phase I will include a table of design specifications for the system and how each relates to a customer need. In Phase II, the awardee(s) will refine system designs based on the findings from Phase I and proceed to build a functioning prototype to be tested and/or deployed. Phase II awardees must also present a detailed plan for technology commercialization.


For Phase I proposals, competitive applicants should demonstrate knowledge, experience, and/or capabilities in developing marine technologies and include the following in their proposals:

·         A preliminary design of the proposed system with estimated physical dimensions;

·         A clear description on how the system would function;

·         The end-user or customers that will be engaged during the project;

·         Identification of the marine energy resource that would be utilized;

·         The method or methods by which customer needs will be converted into design requirements or specifications, for example: Quality Function Deployment, Design Structure Matrix, Kano Method, or Axiomatic Design;

·         Identification and description of the proposed performance metrics which will be used to assess the system in comparison to incumbent technologies, such as levelized cost of energy, levelized avoided cost of energy, or other similar metrics. Please refer to “Existing Ocean Energy Performance Metrics” for examples [5];

·         A description of the intended deployment location(s) and the available energy in the chosen marine energy resource, including identification of any key environmental, social, and regulatory challenges;

·         The state-of-the-art for incumbent technologies and how the proposed design is an improvement in performance or reduction in cost;

·         Details of work to be performed in Phase I including resources required and intended performance targets; and

·         Initial description of Phase II work including the scale of the demonstration prototype, the intended test location or facility, and potential end-user partners.


Questions – Contact: Rajesh Dham, Rajesh.Dham@EE.Doe.Gov


b.      Low-Cost, User-Friendly Monitoring Tools for MHK Sites

This subtopic supports the development of novel methods for environmental monitoring and/or resource characterization at MHK sites that are very low cost and very easy to use. This may include hardware/sensing packages, methodologies, and/or software/analysis tools.


Uncertainty regarding environmental impacts of MHK devices has resulted in extensive baseline and post installation monitoring requirements, which can be difficult and expensive to fulfil with existing environmental monitoring technologies. Many existing environmental monitoring technologies are not designed for or validated for use in locations relevant to MHK. Meanwhile, monitoring efforts for resource characterization face similar challenges, especially for small scale, distributed MHK applications. Additionally, to detect what are anticipated to be rare extreme events, most monitoring systems produce large data streams which must then be extensively and complexly processed and analyzed. Previous research and development have made substantial improvements in the technical performance of monitoring technologies in MHK environments, yet the costs associated with data collection are still prohibitive, and analysis often needs to be performed by a technical specialist.


Areas of particular interest include, but are not limited to:

·         Detection of collision of fish, marine mammals, or diving seabirds with tidal turbines.

·         Collision of marine animals with tidal turbines. While this is believed to be a rare event and there have been limited observations of organisms being struck by or colliding with tidal turbines, there remains a limited ability to observe animals near a turbine, and collision occurrence rates and outcomes have not been well established.

·         Measurement of baseline and changes in noise, currents, or wave climate.

·         Identification of baseline conditions for ambient noise and physical systems such as currents and/or the wave climate. As part of permitting, MHK projects are often required to identify such baseline conditions and quantify if and how installation and operation of their device alters the soundscape and physical systems.

·         Leveraging or modifying existing MHK device performance monitoring technology for environmental monitoring.

·         A possible strategy for lowering cost, complexity, and effort is to harness existing monitoring and adapt it for other needs. If a variable, e.g. noise, is being monitored for device performance, perhaps some modifications could be made such that data collected for device monitoring could additionally serve site monitoring, or vice versa.

·         Environmental monitoring or resource characterization approaches specifically suited to small scale, distributed MHK, supporting Powering the Blue Economy initiatives.

·         Low-cost, user-friendly solutions for MHK monitoring. Smaller scale projects often have smaller scale budgets and personnel. Ideally solutions would apply or be adaptable to multiple project types and/or geographic regions, although especially creative and impactful solutions with a narrow focus could also be of interest.


A key consideration for this topic area is the creation of very low cost and very user-friendly monitoring tools and methodologies. Proposed systems should strive to reduce the cost of instrumentation and data collection by 50 percent as compared to current technologies and methodologies. Additionally, any tools or methodologies should be executable by personnel with basic training, and output data should be in a format and units that are readily understandable by MHK project teams and regulators, and directly address key environmental and/or resource questions.


For Phase I applicants will:

·         Produce a final design of the proposed technology or methodology;

·         Produce a refined drawing or schematic of the proposed system;

·         Develop a description of the cost associated with current technologies used for specified data collection and cost target for proposed technology at commercialization;

·         Provide detailed description of the level of training needed to operate the monitoring instrumentation and analyze data;

·         Provide a description and/or example of the final data output created by the monitoring technology and discuss how the data output addresses the needs of the target audiences;

·         Provide details of work to be performed in Phase 1 including required resources and technical performance targets;

·         Fabrication of a working prototype (for new methodologies and adaptations of existing technologies); Fabrication of a key component (for new technologies and new instruments)

·         Perform proof of concept testing of prototype or component in a lab or tank setting.


Phase II will include, but is not limited to:

·         Fabrication of a working prototype;

·         Rigorous testing of the technology in a relevant MHK environment;

·         A detailed plan for commercialization of the proposed technology.


In addition to the above requirements for Phase I, competitive applicants should demonstrate knowledge, experience, and/or capabilities in developing monitoring technologies for the marine environment and include the following in their application:

·         A preliminary design of the proposed system and a clear description on how the system would operate;

·         A drawing or schematic of the proposed system;

·         A cost estimate for the proposed system and comparison to costs for existing state of the art technologies;

·         An estimate of the level of training needed to operate the proposed monitoring instrumentation and analyze resulting data;

·         A conceptualized or actual example of the proposed output data;

·         Team members or external advisors with essential expertise relating to both MHK and environmental monitoring / resource characterization


Questions – Contact: Rajesh Dham, Rajesh.Dham@EE.Doe.Gov



1.      Copping, A.E. and Hemery, L.G., editors. “OES-Environmental 2020 State of the Science Report: Environmental Effects of Marine Renewable Energy Development Around the World.” Report for Ocean Energy Systems (OES). DOI: 10.2172/1632878, 2020,


2.      LiVecchi, A., A. Copping, D. Jenne, A. Gorton, R. Preus, G. Gill, R. Robichaud, R. Green, S. Geerlofs, S. Gore, D. Hume, W. McShane, C. Schmaus, H. Spence. “Powering the Blue Economy; Exploring Opportunities for Marine Renewable Energy in Maritime Markets.” U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Washington, D.C., 2019,


References: Subtopic a:

1.      LiVecchi, A., A. Copping, D. Jenne, A. Gorton, R. Preus, G. Gill, R. Robichaud, R. Green, S. Geerlofs, S. Gore, D. Hume, W. McShane, C. Schmaus, H. Spence. “Powering the Blue Economy; Exploring Opportunities for Marine Renewable Energy in Maritime Markets.” U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Washington, D.C., 2019,


2.      “DEVELOP Competition: Develop a Marine Energy Powered System.” AmericanMade, NREL, 2020,


3.      “Waves to Water Prize.” AmericanMade, NREL, 2020,


4.      Green, R., Copping, A., Cavagnaro, R.J., Rose, D., Overhus, D., and Jenne, D. "Enabling Power at Sea: Opportunities for Expanded Ocean Observations through Marine Renewable Energy Integration." OCEANS 2019 MTS/IEEE SEATTLE, Seattle, WA, USA, 2019, pp. 1-7, doi: 10.23919/OCEANS40490.2019.8962706.


5.      “Existing Ocean Energy Performance Metrics.” (report originally released as a part of a public Request for Information)


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