The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced the winners of the third and final phase of the Hydropower Operations Optimization (H2Os) Prize. Three teams were selected to receive a share of the $50,000 prize pool for their novel solutions to enhance hydropower’s contribution to the electric grid. Hydropower is a dependable resource and can be dispatched quickly, making it a crucial solution in balancing variable renewable energy and helping to achieve President Biden’s goals of a 100% clean electric grid by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

“The H2Os Prize is an innovative way to ensure hydropower continues to play its critical role in a grid increasingly powered by clean energy technologies,” said Alejandro Moreno, Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “These winners are doing important work to help improve hydropower’s ability to support a reliable and resilient electric grid today and into the future.” 

The winning teams are: 

  • First place ($30,000): HydroFlex, led by Masood Parvania at the University of Utah and Grid Elevated 
  • Runner up ($10,000): MST_power, led by Rui Bo at the Missouri University of Science and Technology 
  • Runner up ($10,000): Vassar Labs Inc., led by Laxmiprasad Putta 

The following competitors were also recognized with honorable mentions: 

  • Littoral Power Systems, led by David Duquette 
  • Wenyuan Tang at North Carolina State University 

While the hydropower industry is well established—and has been among the nation’s largest sources of renewable energy for more than a century—new opportunities continue to arise to improve and modernize hydropower technologies. Some of those opportunities lie in jointly approaching water management and power grid challenges, like balancing strict water release schedules that hydropower facilities must follow with the need to provide power to an increasingly complex electric grid.  

The H2Os Prize, funded by DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office, asked innovators to employ modeling, mathematical optimization, data science, and machine learning to create new ways for hydropower systems to coordinate with existing grid scheduling practices and meet water management needs, such as water supply, environmental flow requirements, and flood management.  

This third phase of the prize increased the complexity of water management requirements, asked competitors to manage longer-term schedules, and added demand profiles that reflect significant solar integration. The winners were selected based on their solution’s applicability to the hydropower industry, scalability and novelty of the approach, and diversity, equity, and inclusion considerations as part of the solution.  

The H2Os Prize supports WPTO’s Hydropower and Water Innovation for a Resilient Electricity System (HydroWIRES) Initiative by focusing on hydropower’s complementary role as an integrator of variable renewables, like wind and solar, and best leveraging hydropower’s benefits for planning daily grid operations.

The H2Os Prize is administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in partnership with RTI International. Visit American-Made Challenges to stay up to date with similar competitions designed to spur innovation in renewable energy.