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Hydropower Prize Announce Phase One Winners; Opens Phase Two

Brittany Enos's picture
Communications Specialist National Renewable Energy Laboratory

I work at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory as a communications professional, supporting the water power team.

  • Member since 2022
  • 5 items added with 1,708 views
  • Jul 14, 2022

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) announced eight winners of Phase One of the Hydropower Operations Optimization (H2Os) Prize. These teams are developing cutting-edge solutions for more innovative hydropower operational schemes with the potential to advance hydropower’s contributions to the United States’ goal of decarbonizing the power grid by 2035.


“These innovators are helping make hydropower more flexible,” said Dr. Sam Bockenhauer, lead of WPTO’s HydroWIRES Initiative. “They are helping to design a more resilient energy system, offering new ideas on how hydropower can provide flexible, on-demand power for our grid, especially as more variable renewable energy resources come online.”

H2Os Prize competitors are helping solve some of the most near-term challenges in the clean energy
transition by optimizing hydropower operations to improve grid reliability and resiliency. Phase Two of
the three-phase prize is now open to new and returning competitors.

For more than a century, hydropower has been among the nation’s largest sources of renewable energy. While the hydropower industry is well established, new opportunities continue to arise for innovating and modernizing hydropower technologies.

The three-stage H2Os Prize challenges innovators to upgrade hydropower technology using 21st century solutions. Competitors are applying modeling, data analytics, and machine learning to create new ways for hydropower systems to plan daily grid operations and meet water management needs, such as water supply, environmental flow requirements, and flood management.

Team HydroFlex, led by Alex Farley at the University of Utah, was awarded the $3,000 first prize for Phase One.

In addition, the following teams were awarded $1,000 each in Phase One for their innovative ideas to expand hydropower’s role in the clean energy transition:

  • Hydrophile led by Kirinina von Slomski
  • Littoral Power Systems led by David Duquette
  • Maroon 3 led by Sungkwang Mun at Mississippi State University
  • MST_Power led by Rui Bo at Missouri University of Science and Technology
  • Vassar Labs Inc. led by Laxmiprasad Putta
  • Wenyuan Tang at North Carolina State University
  • Yul Young Park

As part of WPTO’s Hydropower and Water Innovation for a Resilient Energy System (HydroWIRES) Initiative, the H2Os

Prize focuses on ways hydropower can complement variable renewables, like wind and solar. When the wind slows and the sun sets, dams and reservoirs can kick in to add power quickly and cut back again when breezes pick up and the sun rises.

To continue encouraging innovative solutions for complex hydropower challenges, the H2Os Prize includes two more phases—each open to new and returning competitors. Phase Two is now open for submissions and asks competitors to plan grid operations and meet water management needs while satisfying more real-world factors in hydropower operations like water flow requirements and water consumption demands. Potential competitors are encouraged to join the H2Os Prize Phase Two informational webinar on Monday, July 18 at 1 p.m. ET to learn how to compete in the prize. Phase Two will close on August 18, 2022.

The H2Os Prize welcomes applications from those familiar with hydropower, machine learning, data science, and/or optimization. Diverse, multidisciplinary teams are encouraged to apply to help solve some of the most near-term challenges in the clean energy transition by improving the performance of hydropower system operations.  

WPTO will host an R&D Deep Dive webinar on August 2, 2022, at 1 p.m. ET with the team members who created the H2Os Prize. These experts will share their reflections on Phase One and what to look forward to in Phase Two.

The H2Os Prize is funded by WPTO and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in partnership with RTI International.  

Learn more about participating in the prize!

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Jul 19, 2022

This is a great way to honor amazing hydro plants. They produce 24/7 and let the water flow and even have fish by pass areas. They can adjust the water level to provide less power when the need is low and more when the needs are higher. By upgrading them over the years they can produce more than ever. In Arizona ours also prevent flooding and help regulate the water as needed. 

Brittany Enos's picture
Thank Brittany for the Post!
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