The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) today launched the Hydropower Operations Optimization (H2Os) Prize, which will award up to $75,000 to innovators developing new solutions that can help advance hydropower’s contribution to the grid.  

As the United States works to decarbonize the power grid by 2035, hydropower’s evolving role will be crucial to improving the grid’s reliability, resilience, and overall performance. Hydropower technologies are versatile and dependable and can be dispatched quickly, including for black start power restoration. However, estimates of hydropower availability and water management practices often lead to underutilization of existing hydropower resources. 

“Hydropower provides flexible, on-demand power that is critical to integrating variable renewables into our energy system,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman. “The H2Os Prize will help drive innovative solutions that can expand the role of this sustainable resource to provide reliability and resilience to the grid.“ 

The H2Os Prize challenges innovators to employ modeling, data analytics, 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. 

The prize supports WPTO’s Hydropower and Water Innovation for a Resilient Energy 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. Through the competition, WPTO seeks solutions to address key hydropower technology development goals: 

  • Hydropower management performance: Hydropower scheduling solutions that respect the water system’s physical and operational constraints. 
  • Hydropower generation benefits: Economic and environmental benefits resulting from hydropower generation based on feasible hydropower output and electricity market energy prices.       
  • Novel, scalable, and broadly applicable: Unique and innovative flexible solutions that apply to a variety of facilities within a range of modeling and institutional workflows. 

The prize will run in three distinct phases of increasing complexity. Phase 1 is now open for submissions and will close on May 20, 2022. Subsequent phases will be open to both new and returning competitors. 

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.  

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 and contact for more information.