Trial by Water: NREL’s Wave-Powered Desalination Device Sets Sail

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March 15, 2022 | Originally published by National Renewable Energy Laboratory on March 7, 2022

On a sun-filled winter day, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers visited Jennette’s Pier, which sits on the shore of Nags Head beach in North Carolina. Amid salty air and crashing waves, the crew deployed a wave-powered desalination test device and anchored it to the nearby seabed—a long-awaited feat for the research team.

“Getting to this point has required a lot of patience and perseverance, but that’s part of developing new renewable marine energy technologies,” said Scott Jenne, NREL’s marine energy systems engineering and techno-economic lead and principal investigator for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waves to Water Prize. “Between building the device and finding a good-weather window in which to deploy, there were obstacles along the way, but we overcame those challenges and finally got the test device into the water.”

NREL researchers began designing the hydraulic and electric reverse osmosis (HERO) wave energy converter (WEC) device in summer 2020 and finished building it in January 2022. The team spent all of 2021 designing and constructing the HERO WEC, which is about 6 feet in diameter or roughly the size of a round dining table. After a year of facing unexpected supply chain challenges, the team finally found a chance to test the device in the laboratory just before shipping it to North Carolina for ocean trials.

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