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Water Power

Advanced Controls for Optimum Operation of Subsurface Wave Energy Converters

Company Name: CalWave Power Technologies Inc.
Program Office: Water Power
Location: Berkeley, CA
Email: Marcus Lehmann, Co-founder & CEO;
Award Amount: $150,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Agreement Negotiation
Participating Lab(s): Sandia National Laboratories


CalWave Power Technologies Inc (CalWave) is developing a subsurface wave energy converter (WEC). WECs have the potential to provide energy for both large-scale grids and smaller markets, such as islands.

One of the biggest barriers to the economic viability of WECs is producing sufficient power while limiting loads. CalWave's device has the potential to overcome this barrier because it is designed to be located below the water's surface, where loads vary less and are therefore less extreme.

The company's device is unique in its operation, and relatively little work has been done to understand the optimal design of such a system. The small business CalWave is currently in the process of advancing its technology towards an open water demonstration.

This SBV Pilot will provide the company with the support necessary to move its technology to the next level, allowing CalWave to garner additional interest from investors and further develop the technology. If successful, the firm may then have the ability to enter smaller niche markets.


While most wave energy converters are designed to operate on the ocean's surface, the CalWave's device is designed to operate below the surface. While the amount of available energy underwater is smaller, it also tends to be more consistent and have less variation. The advantage of this subsurface approach is that the CalWave's device has the potential to be designed leaner as the device experiences it's peak loads during operations and not in survival conditions. Additionally, the physics of a fully submerged device are more straightforward. Loads may be predicted with higher accuracy, allowing for the usage of lower factors of safety in the system's design.


Sandia National Laboratories will provide modeling support, helping California Wave Power Technologies to better understand how system controls can be implemented in a way that increases energy generation and reduces loading. If successful, this project will move the company's wave energy converter along the path of development. If commercialized, CalWave's device would provide jobs at the small business, independent power producers, project developers, shipyards, manufacutring and fabrication facilities. The wave energy industry shows great synergetic potential with the growing offshore wind industry, as both industries have the potential to provide clean renewable energy without reliance on foreign resources.

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