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    University of Hawaii at Mānoa Wins First U.S. DOE Marine Energy Collegiate Competition; Receives Allocated Project Funds from NAVFAC EXWC

    The University of Hawaii at Mānoa has received allocated project funds and resources from Naval Facilities (NAVFAC) Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (EXWC) to further develop their wave energy conversion (WEC) technology as the university wins the first United States Department of Energy (U.S. DOE) Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC) for 2020.

    Spearheaded by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and managed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on behalf of the U.S. DOE’s Water and Power Technologies Office, the MECC probed multidisciplinary teams comprised of undergraduate and graduate students to develop adaptable solutions to support “blue economy”.

    Blue economy is defined as the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the heath of each ocean. MECC teams were asked to design, optimize and explore new opportunities that support blue economy, while furthering the marine energy industry.

    University of Hawaii at Mānoa’s team—named the Halona WEC Team—is comprised of three graduate students, one undergraduate student, and six faculty advisors. Their vision by competing in the MECC was to provide industry solutions and standards for small-scale wave energy conversion applications within blue economy.
    After intense deliberation, the Halona WEC Team focused on creating a self-charging mobile WEC powered platform that can charge observation platforms and autonomous underwater vehicles.

    “The [WEC powered platform] is based on my PhD Dissertation work around WEC-based autonomous underwater vehicle docking stations,” said Nic Ulm, Halona WEC Team member and PhD student at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. “Seeing that other [University of Hawaii at Mānoa] students had an interest in participating in the MECC encouraged faculty and students to put together a team.”

    Prior to the WEC powered platform’s conception, the Halona WEC Team interviewed various government agency oceanographers (including professionals at NAVFAC EXWC), offshore industry personnel and marine industry professionals to assess their thoughts on emerging concepts relating to blue economy. Based on their research, the Halona WEC Team developed a business plan and assessed their marketplace applicability and potential integration as part of the MECC project guidelines.

    “It has been fantastic to work on a proof-of-concept prototype,” said Ulm. “As a PhD student, you are often isolated in your research by the nature of trying to be an expert in a specific area. It has been extremely rewarding to work with other students who have come from various professional backgrounds. Our team’s interdisciplinary diversity offered insights we may not have otherwise considered while working so closely on our MECC prototype.”

    After countless months of work, the University of Hawaii at Mānoa placed first as an overall winner of the MECC, in addition to winning the individual category of best pitch.

    “The University of Hawaii at Mānoa’s MECC victory is another feather in our cap as we push for greater involvement in the advancement of wave energy for the U.S. Navy, the U.S., and globally,” said Patrick Cross, PhD; Program Manager of Marine Energy at Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and faculty at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. “This victory provides us with a very gratifying recognition of our efforts in this area, as we work to expand our research in wave energy generally at University of Hawaii at Mānoa by involving more faculty and students—obviously the students are the critical core of that community.”

    The University of Hawaii at Mānoa has a long-standing relationship with the U.S. Navy, and uses the Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) off Oahu at Marine Corps Base Hawaii—managed by NAVFAC EXWC—as a primary resource to test marine energy devices. Funding for WETS is designated for marine energy systems to power both offshore components and onshore micro-grids. As blue economy research and its importance expands, NAVFAC EXWC and other Department of Defense enterprises are demanding further and improved analysis of the blue economy.

    “[Our] emphasis is likely to be focused on both grid-connected and blue economy projects moving forward, and we are hopeful that the recognition achieved through the MECC win will open doors to new funding opportunities with the U.S. DOE, U.S. Navy, and others” said Cross.

    Cross added that in recent years, the University of Hawaii at Mānoa has used portions of their U.S. Navy funding for WETS to support graduate students who are studying relevant research of wave energy.

    “Facilitating [students] studies, while also integrating them into the overall WETS effort has been quite rewarding,” said Cross. “It’s great to see one of those students—Nic Ulm—take such an aggressive leadership role in all aspects of his work, not only to advance his PhD research objectives, but to make substantial and meaningful advancements of interest to the U.S. Navy, specifically NAVFAC sponsors.”

    Due to the success of the Halona WEC Team and their WEC powered platform, (in addition to testing their prototype at WETS) NAVFAC EXWC has allocated funding for Ulm to continue his research through WETS.

    “The promising work of Nic Ulm—who led the MECC team to its recent victory—will receive his graduate assistantship scholarship through (allocated) NAVFAC funding,” said Nate Sinclair, NAVFAC EXWC WETS Program Manager. “In Nic’s assistantship role, he will continue to focus his PhD research with the University of Hawaii at Mānoa to achieve WETS objectives for the U.S. Navy, and by extension for the U.S. DOE, which funds many of the projects that gets tested at WETS.”

    The Halona WEC Team and their wave energy conversion technology is typical of technologies currently being tested at WETS.

    For more news from NAVFAC EXWC, please visit or visit us on Facebook @NAVFACEXWC

    About Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC):
    NAVFAC EXWC is a command of more than 1,300 dedicated federal employees, contractors, and military personnel who provide science, research, development, testing, evaluation, specialized engineering, and mobile logistics capabilities to deliver sustainable facility and pragmatic expeditionary solutions to the warfighter.



    Date Taken: 08.24.2020
    Date Posted: 08.24.2020 12:00
    Story ID: 376664
    Location: HONOLULU, US

    Web Views: 274
    Downloads: 1