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Measuring Real-Time Wave Data with Ocean Wave Buoy

Integral Consulting
ARPA-E Award: 
Seattle, WA
Project Term: 
04/05/2013 to 08/31/2017
Project Status: 
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 

Renewable energy is critical to our environmental, economic, and national security. Demand for energy is on the rise, as is our national reliance on fossil fuel-based power plants for the bulk of our electricity generation. There is a drastic need for safe, clean, and cost-effective alternatives to coal, such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, and geothermal power. These technologies would reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and help position the U.S. as a leader in the global renewable energy industry.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

Integral Consulting is developing a cost-effective ocean wave buoy system that will accurately measure its own movements as it follows the surface wave motions of the ocean and relay this real-time wave data. Conventional real-time wave measurement buoys are expensive, which limits the ability to deploy large networks of buoys. Data from Integral Consulting's buoys can be used as input to control strategies of wave energy conversion (WEC) devices and allow these controlled WECs to capture significantly more energy than systems that do not employ control strategies. Integral Consulting's system will also enable assessment of the optimal locations and designs of WEC systems. Integral Consulting's ocean wave buoy system could measure and relay real-time wave data at 10% the cost of commercially available wave measurement systems.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, Integral Consulting's wave measurement system would enable more efficient and cost-effective ocean energy conversion systems and provide the innovative step forward to propel WEC designs from a niche technology to an affordable energy resource for the U.S.


Increased availability of renewable power would help diversify the U.S. energy portfolio, allowing homeowners and businesses access to a grid that is less dependent on any one source of power. Providing clean electricity would significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity generation. Presently, over 40% of U.S. CO2 emissions come from electricity generation.


Providing clean electricity would significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity generation. Presently, over 40% of U.S. CO2 emissions come from electricity generation.


Enabling alternative sources of energy like WEC could help stabilize and reduce the price of energy. This could result in significant cost savings over fossil fuels in the years to come.

Innovation Update: 
(As of March 2017) 
The Integral Consulting team has developed first- and second-generation wave-by-wave measurement systems with accuracy comparable to current off-the-shelf devices and at a tenth of the cost. Integral plans to begin selling its first-generation product, the WaveSpotter V1, in 2017. First-market applications include offshore oil and gas rig monitoring, maritime traffic, oceanic research and modeling, among others. Success in these early markets will enable the team to scale production of the product. Integral is working closely with WEC manufacturers to develop active tuning methodologies and protocols, so that by the time WaveSpotter V2 is commercially ready, the market will be more fully developed.
The Integral team approached its technology development by focusing on cost reduction in its first-generation product, and then outfitted the device with wave-by-wave measurement capability in its second generation. The team leveraged low-cost microprocessor control board technologies and incorporated synchronized GPS, an inertial measurement unit, and wireless data communication with microelectrochemical systems technologies to overcome the first technical challenge of an extreme reduction in cost compared to industry standard, spectrally based buoys. The result was WaveSpotter V1, a spectral binning-based wave measurement buoy product available at one-tenth the cost of state-of-the-art wave measurement systems. The team then developed the next generation system to produce wave-by-wave measurements. This stage presented the challenge of filtering noisy data, which the team was able to overcome by using real-time filtering techniques developed for the aerospace industry. The resulting product, WaveSpotter V2, has been field-tested off the coasts of Waimanalo, HI; Santa Cruz, CA; and Santa Barbara, CA; and has demonstrated real-time communication of highly accurate (less than 5% difference compared to commercial off the shelf devices), real-time wave measurement data.
For a detailed assessment of the Integral Consulting project and impact, please click here.

ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Christopher Atkinson
Project Contact: 
Grace Chang
Sandia National Laboratory
Release Date: