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Two Oregon Teams Reach Wave Energy Prize Finals

Two Oregon teams are among the finalists selected today in the Wave Energy Prize, a U.S. Department of Energy competition to double the energy captured from ocean waves. One is the familiar Salem-based M3 and the other is a new name in the wave game, Portland-based AquaHarmonics.

The teams, both with Oregon State ties, were selected along with seven other teams to construct 1/20th-scale models of their wave energy converters. As finalists, they’ll receive up to $125,000 to ready their devices for testing this summer at the Navy’s giant Carderock MASK Basin wave tank in Maryland. Assuming they meet a cost-efficiency threshold set for the competition, the first-place winner could receive $1.5 million, second place $500,000 and third place $250,000.

The competition began with 92 entries, then was trimmed to 66 teams that submitted technical documents. Twenty teams were next selected as semifinalists and required to perform wave-tank tests of 1/50th-scale models.

Although Oregon State has a wave tank, in order not to confer a “home-field” advantage, AquaHarmonics and M3 were sent off to the University of Michigan to test their devices.

AquaHarmonics consists of Alex Hagmuller and Max Ginsburg, both engineering graduates from Oregon State, according to their Facebook page. Their device is described as a “point absorber with latching/de-clutching control.” Point absorbers bob at the surface to absorb the vertical motion of passing waves.

M3’s design is an adaptation of the APEX device that was tested off Camp Rilea in September 2014 – submerged but not on the ocean floor like APEX. Called NEXUS, it uses the change in pressure caused by passing waves to send air back and forth through a column, spinning a turbine.

M3 is led by Mike Morrow and Mike Delos-Reyes, both Oregon State grads as well. The pair recently won a $600,000 U.S. DOE contract to advance the APEX concept.

The Pacific Northwest, home to much of the wave energy development in the United States, also has a third team among the finalists, Oscilla Power of Seattle. Their floating device is completely different from anything else, taking advantage of an effect called magnetostriction, caused by the constantly changing tension in the device’s tethers, to produce an electrical current.