The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced the opening of the Fish Protection Prize, a prize focused on developing more reliable and sustainable water structures while protecting fish from traveling into unknown, dangerous waters, diversions, and intakes. The goal of the Prize is to improve fish protection, or exclusion, technologies to decrease the number of fish susceptible to river and canal diversions, unscreened diversion pipes, or intakes at hydropower dams.

Fish exclusion is a way of preventing fish from going into a water diversion or intake. Without a fish exclusion device or method, fish can be trapped, or entrained, which means that they are removed from their natural environment. This can result in the loss of native fish and the reduction of operating capabilities of the involved energy infrastructure, like hydroelectric dams. Fish entrainment can have population-level impacts, threatening biodiversity and impeding fish recovery efforts for threatened and endangered species.

Building off of a successful scoping prize administered by the Bureau of Reclamation in 2019, the Fish Protection Prize is designed to improve fish exclusion technology by decreasing the number of entrained fish from river and canal diversions, unscreened diversion pipes, or intakes at hydropower dams. Based on the American-Made Challenges Prize Model, the three-stage competition will be run jointly by DOE and Reclamation, with three winners ultimately awarded up to $700,000 of combined cash prizes and voucher support from the National Laboratories and Reclamation. The competition is open to radically new ideas that need technical support to develop and improve existing technologies that would benefit from a testing campaign to validate their use.

The American-Made Challenges incentivize the nation's entrepreneurs to reassert American leadership in the energy marketplace. These new challenges seek to lower the barriers U.S.-based innovators face in reaching manufacturing scale by accelerating the cycles of learning from years to weeks, while helping to create partnerships that connect entrepreneurs to the private sector and the network of DOE's National Laboratories across the nation.

Further information about the structure of the competition is organized as follows:

Concept Stage (January 15, 2020 to April 15, 2020; Up to 10 Finalists)

  • Applicants submit up to 10-page-long submissions
  • Evaluated based on technical innovation, proof of concept feasibility, risk mitigation, and team

Incubation Stage (June 2020 to August 2020, Up to 50 Hours of National Lab Technical Assistance)

  • Finalists will receive 50 hours of support from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory from June through August in advance of the pitch contest
  • Work can include analysis, communication support, or light technical support

Pitch Contest (September 2020, Up to Three Winners)

  • Finalists submit a final report, including work conducted with the National Labs
  • Competitors will pitch in front of a live audience (including industry and regulatory experts who will serve as reviewers and help select winners) at the 150th anniversary event for the American Fisheries Society
  • The top three competitors will be awarded both cash and non-cash prizes such as voucher support to advance their technologies

Learn more about the Fish Protection Prize.

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy supports early-stage research and development of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies that make energy more affordable and strengthen the reliability, resilience, and security of the U.S. electric grid.

For more information on water power research, development, and testing see the EERE Water Power Technologies Office website.