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.

  • Team SEWEC prepares to test at Carderock

    Posted on Fri 23 Sep 2016

    Did we draw the long straw or the short straw when we heard in July that we would be the last team to test our device in the MASK basin at Carderock? We’ll certainly be older we thought, possibly wiser, maybe even better informed. What we didn’t realize was how much more relaxed we’d be as the rush to complete our device, test it, load it into the container, finish the team test plan etc. etc. by the July deadline has all faded into the past.

    After a well- earned summer break, we’ll swing back into action next week, open up the container, open up the crate and prep SEWEC for tank testing in the week of October 6th. As a warm-up we have been reviewing the vacuum pump we will be using to pull most of the air out of Sewec – enough to get the same “air elasticity” expected with the much higher pressure swings that will be generated in a full scale unit. We lucked out again in finding another great supplier/partner to help us in the competition – Associated Vacuum Services of Santa Anna, California Bob Tumbrello, GM at Associated Vacuum had our pump pre-tested and promptly uploaded a video so we can see what are getting

    Not only that, Bob encouraged us mightily by associating us with previous technology pioneers he has supported – his company has just built a satellite chamber for SPACE X and a few years ago they did the testing for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer project which was on the Endeavour shuttle’s last payload up to the International Space Station.

    AMS shuttled by Endeavor
    AMS shuttled by Endeavor

    AMS loaded into Endeavor’s cargo bay
    AMS loaded into Endeavor’s cargo bay

    Says Bob - “We’re a small group of people doing very big things sometimes - it’s a lot of fun!”

    Looking back on our hectic build phase we worked with a whole slew of professionals who enthusiastically helped us with our special needs. We have been very lucky – they all hit it out of the park.

    Back to the checklist for Carderock. Nick, Tom, Byron, Carol, Sean – we’re back on stage! Now where did we stash the keys to our PackRat container?

  • SEWEC prepares for testing in October

    Posted on Fri 15 Jul 2016

    The last month has seen a flurry of activity. On June 19th we finished the 1/20th scale model and loaded it into the crate (Photo Patrick with crate) in California. Over the next 3 days it was driven non-stop across the USA to Maine whereupon Nick G, Nick W and Sean prepped it for operation (see photo Sean and Nick with wires) in the new wave tank at the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center in Orono. Sewec 1/20 was splashed on June 28th and floated to her marks! We then spent five days putting her through her paces - and everything worked - thanks to Byron and Nick G. We even ran the configuration to skip every second wave - reported as a simulation curiosity in an earlier team update - see the video so bravo to Sewec’s numerical modelling crew. And a big thank you to Anthony Viselli, Matt Fowler and Matt Cameron who got us up and running and got a ton of data for us at U of M.

    Then back into the crate (see photo Tom with crate 2) minus PTO valve and orifice plates which we finally calibrated the following week at San Jose State University, in an upgraded rig. Back on the plane to Bangor the following Monday with the valve and orifices, get Sewec out of the crate and run a vacuum test at the U of M. The Advanced Structures and Composites Center routinely vacuum bag their composites and they kindly deployed their equipment and considerable expertise to evacuate and catch every last air leak on Sewec. The photo (Chris with vacuum) shows Chris Urquhart, vacuum maestro at U of M listening for leaks and photo (0.28 psia) shows the steady state value we ultimately reached of 0.28 psia. We need 1/20th of an atmosphere absolute (0.75 psia) in the Carderock test to account for scaling of the OWC air volume, so we should be ok. As far as we know, this will be the first time this technique has been used to increase scale model air elasticity so we really wanted to be sure we could pump 95% of the air out of Sewec, without leaks or structural collapse. Our fabricator Tom Johansing ran a stress analysis in May and said then “You’re good”. Thanks to Tom we are good to go.

    Our team is the last to test at Carderock and this thought cheered me a lot as I loaded Sewec back in the crate Friday evening. Team Sewec “has a wrap” and is looking forward to an extended summer break.

    Patrick wiv Crate
    Patrick with Crate
    Sean and Nick wiv Wires
    Sean and Nick with Wires
    Tom wiv Crate
    Tom with Crate
    Chris with Vacuum
    Chris with Vacuum
    .28 psia
    .28 psia

  • SEWEC assembles final 1/20 scale device

    Posted on Mon 20 Jun 2016

    The past month has been even more hectic with final assembly of our 1/20th scale model - many components had to be “adjusted” to fit at the same time as we were completing our input for Technical Gate 3. Byron Barnes has worked into wee hours many nights.

    Photo 1 shows the bare device core on the left with the bow Styrofoam cutout in the background.

    In photo 2 you can see the assembly being fiberglassed - inverted on our custom build frame/test cart.

    Photo 3 shows SEWEC sitting snugly in the crate (thanks Patrick) before shipment to the University of Maine for pretesting in the last week of June.

    Also in June our calibration team at San Jose State University swung into high gear, measuring and calibrating SEWEC’s PTO system. Professor Liat Rosenfeld’s team - Tamir Alquran and Brian Hulliger followed Nick Gray’s test protocols to measure and document the position/flow/pressure drop data that will be used to measure power absorption in wave tank testing. Photo 4 shows the SEWEC valve and orifice plates being calibrated in the SJSU lab.

    On June 28th we splash and then start to tune and pre-test SEWEC 1/20 in Orono, Maine. Thanks to all hardworking team members and contributors who got us here on time. Our next update will show SEWEC 1/20 in her element, sucking power out of the waves. Stay tuned…

    Message from Sea Energies_SEWEC - see

    Reflections on WEP_SEWEC - see

  • 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.

DISCLAIMER: The team information provided on this page is provided solely by SEWEC. The Wave Energy Prize is not responsible for its accuracy, legality, decency of material or intellectual-property compliance.

Back to Teams

EERE. Wave Energy Prize. U.S. Department of Energy. Jul, 2018, 13:25 EST. Available at: Accessed Jul, 2018.

EERE. "Wave Energy Prize." U.S. Department of Energy, July. 2018. Web. July. 2018.

EERE. "Wave Energy Prize,", U.S. Department of Energy, (accessed Jul, 2018).

EERE. Wave Energy Prize [Internet].; 2018 July, 13:25 EST [cited 2018 July]. Available from:

@ONLINE{U.S. Department of Energy:2018:Online, author = {EERE}, title = {Wave Energy Prize [email protected]}}, year = {2018}, url = {}, note = [Online; accessed Jul-2018] }