Redwood City, CA

Team Photo for SEWEC

Date Accepted

Wed 10 Jun 2015

Combined Score

5.2 (Technology Gate 2}

Team Info

The SEWEC team will be led by Nick Wynn.

The SEWEC team is a multi-disciplinary group assembled to compete in the Wave Energy Prize competition as a first step in deploying the SEWEC device in American oceans. All engineers, they contribute specialist know how in the following areas: (i) Byron Barnes - aerodynamics/fluid dynamics, (ii) Carol Bennett – media relations and funding co-ordination, (iii) Tom Benson – manufacturing wave energy concepts and tank testing, (iv) Nicholas Gray and Casey Birmingham – electrical and control, (v) Sean Lavelle – renewable energy primarily from waves. The SEWEC device is based on the technical knowledge, engineering and patented designs developed by Sea Energies

WEC Device Type

Floating Oscillating Water column WEC with internal turbine generator.

Team Quote

“Let’s pacify the Pacific”

Team Bios

Nick Wynn has worked as a mechanical engineer on gas turbines and aviation test facilities, subsequently as a chemical engineer in the UK, Switzerland, Canada, Germany and recently in California as COO of Membrane Technology & Research Inc. Nick is a graduate mechanical engineer from the University of Surrey, UK, with an MS in chemical engineering from MIT. He founded the technology development company IProTech in 2015 and lives with his wife Carol Bennett in Redwood City, CA, where they run in the nearby hills and sail a Folkboat on San Francisco Bay.

Byron Barnes is a commercial pilot with an airline transport category rating and has been active in aviation and aeronautics for his entire adult life. He started flying airplanes at the age of 14 and building and flying model aircraft and rockets. Byron has amassed more than 10,000 hours of flight time and during his time as a professional pilot he has continued with his passion for engineering and aeronautics by remaining active in designing and building flying model aircraft. Byron lives in Benicia, California with his wife and two children, and his hobbies include sailing and woodworking.

Carol Bennett is currently employed as business development director with a major information and media service provider located in Silicon Valley. She has over 30 years of international business experience including M&A, and business development primarily in the areas of renewable energy, electronics & technology as well as chemicals. As senior vice president at Sulzer she was responsible for strategic planning and M&A activity of the corporation and led a team to complete over 50 transactions including acquisitions, divestitures, management buy-out and joint ventures. Carol holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from N.C. State University and an M.B.A. from Thunderbird.

Tom Benson is a Mechanical Engineering graduate of the University of Surrey, UK and founder of Benson Engineering Ltd. In Killarney, a founding member of the Irish Wave Energy Developers Association (IWEDA). Benson Engineering has developed its innovative wave pump through the early TRL gates, successfully tank testing the concept at 1/50th scale and 1/15th scale. Extensive experience has been gained in the wave energy field in numerical modelling, model building and tank testing. A ¼ scale model will be tested in the ¼ scale Smart Bay test site in the sea in Galway Bay Ireland in Q4 2015 and 2016. This device is fixed to the sea bed and driven by a point absorber buoy.

Sean Lavelle is the owner of Sea Energies Ltd and inventor of the SEWEC device. Sean is a mechanical engineering graduate of the University of Limerick and Trinity College, Dublin and owns and operates a fleet of class leading purpose built vessels to undertake oceanographic and geophysical surveys, dive support, shore logistics support, navigation buoy, beacon and rapid response. Sean has been developing the SEWEC device for the past eight years and has tested the device in a number of wave energy basins in Ireland. The SEWEC15 device has also successfully been deployed offshore in Blacksod Bay, Co. Mayo Ireland.


All team members live on the west coast of a continent and see serious waves much of the time – five are based in California and two in Ireland.

  • SEWEC constructs 1/20th scale model and continues modeling to learn more about the device

    Posted on Sun 15 May 2016

    Team SEWEC is now assembling the 1/20th scale device. Photo 1 shows Johansing Iron Works welder Nick grinding out the final welds on on our device core; Photo 2 shows wave energy interns Gracie and Ollie providing scale to the first step in our assembly process. Most of our components are now here - the question is now will they fit together - or has our QA failed us so we have to scramble?

    In parallel to our build we are getting to know SEWEC much better - in particular how to configure her to maximize energy capture from particular sea states. The video shows one strand of our simulation work - and far and away the best for visualizing how crashing right into waves can suck out all their energy. The video shows a eureka moment in team member Paul Mcevoy’s OrcaFlex simulation of SEWEC - we know, numerically, why SEWEC is only hitting on every second wave!

  • SEWEC April video update

    Posted on Fri 15 Apr 2016

    Team SEWEC is frantically executing our build plan. There’s a lot going on and the following video captures one small victory. The photo shows team member Byron Barnes winning us over with his thin aluminum sheet speed welding demo. Each day gives us a fresh challenge - one day we even came close to replaying the Drake Tribal Council episode of the Survivor TV series.

    Watch the SEWEC update video here:

  • SEWEC placing P/O’s to support 1:20 scale model build

    Posted on Tue 22 Mar 2016

    We regret that Florent Thiebaut has decided to leave Team SEWEC. We thank Florent wholeheartedly for his contribution to our WEP effort.

    Team SEWEC is very busy placing P/O’s for major equipment and materials, making the last tweaks in our design and preparing documentation for the Carderock Test Plan.

  • SEWEC welcomes new team members

    Posted on Fri 12 Feb 2016

    Team SEWEC is pleased to announce that Dr. Paul McEvoy has just joined our team. Paul is Technical Director at TFI Marine, a global leader in marine mooring systems and tethers and will bring us hard core knowhow in this area. We will use Paul’s expertise to both minimize mooring loads in survival conditions and to cross check our numerical simulations as we continue to optimize our adaptive control algorithms prior to (fingers crossed) 1/20th scale testing.

    In planning our 1/20th scale design/build we have been fortunate to secure the services of Peter Jeal – a versatile metalsmith based in San Francisco. Peter is not just a highly skilled craftsman with an artistic bent, but also eight times winner of the Folkboat Class Championship sailing USA-113 in San Francisco Bay.

    Peter Jeal Metalsmith
    Peter Jeal Metalsmith
    Folkboat US-113 “Polperro”
    Folkboat US-113 “Polperro”

    We are upgrading our simulation techniques throughout February,even as the deadline for the selection of the WEP finalists looms. A really simple 2D approach is proving to be useful in optimizing some of the design parameters of the 1/20th scale model. The printout below shows a reasonably accurate simulation of our December 1/50th scale test at the U of M wave tank, with a one second period wave. It works - finally!

    Simulation of 1/50th scale SEWEC test
    Simulation of 1/50th scale SEWEC test

    And for wave inspiration, Team SEWEC is fortunate to be based in Redwood City, just across the San Francisco Peninsula from Half Moon Bay. February 12th sees the start of the 2016 Mavericks Surf Competition – see this link for the action in 2014 at one of the West Coast’s best surf breaks.

  • SEWEC working control strategy

    Posted on Fri 15 Jan 2016

    The SEWEC team is busy with plans for the 1/20th scale tests. We are working diligently to fine tune an adaptive control strategy that will turn up the power.

  • SEWEC provides video of testing at the University of Michigan

    Posted on Mon 21 Dec 2015

    The SEWEC device has been put through its paces at 1/50th scale in the University of Michigan Wave Tank. Director Steven Zalek, Controls Engineer Brent Cragin and Technician Nick Wild kindly hosted our team over the second week of December. They run a very professional operation and SEWEC was presented with a challenging spectrum of waves. The highly automated test facility not only serves up wave profiles to order but also records generated power as well as all motion of the device and wave environment – a treasure trove of data which will keep us busy through the spring of 2016.

    From left to right, Michael Wright, Brent Cragin, Nick Wynn, Tom Benson and Steven Zalek monitoring one of the many successful test runs.
    From left to right, Michael Wright, Brent Cragin, Nick Wynn, Tom Benson and Steven Zalek monitoring one of the many successful test runs.

    To see a typical test run, follow this link

  • SEWEC 1/50th model in transit to U of Michigan

    Posted on Fri 13 Nov 2015

    Team SEWEC has completed the build of their 1/50th scale model which is now in transit to the University of Michigan. Numerical modelling work continues to ensure we have a complete understanding of how best to tune the device for the upcoming wave tests - using MATLAB is helping us considerably. We look forward to confirming our predictions and demonstrating the SEWEC technology in early December.


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Back to Teams

EERE. Wave Energy Prize. U.S. Department of Energy. May, 2016, 9:55 UTC. Available at: Accessed May, 2016.

EERE. "Wave Energy Prize." U.S. Department of Energy, May. 2016. Web. May. 2016.

EERE. "Wave Energy Prize,", U.S. Department of Energy, (accessed May, 2016).

EERE. Wave Energy Prize [Internet].; 2016 May, 9:55 UTC [cited 2016 May]. Available from:

@ONLINE{U.S. Department of Energy:2016:Online, author = {EERE}, title = {Wave Energy Prize [email protected]}}, year = {2016}, url =}, note = [Online; accessed May-2016] }