The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO), through its HydroWIRES Initiative, announced three selectees for a Notice of Opportunity for Technical Assistance (NOTA) for Improving Hydropower’s Value Through Informed Decision Making. Additionally, WPTO released a Notice of Intent (NOI) for the next opportunity from HydroWIRES—an upcoming Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) entitled “Technology Innovation to Increase Hydropower Flexibility”.

As the U.S. grid evolves and incorporates more renewable sources, hydropower needs to be able to adapt to these changing grid conditions and help the grid integrate new sources of power. The HydroWIRES initiative—through these new selections and its next opportunity—aims to help develop solutions to improve hydropower operational flexibility, value, and overall grid resilience.

“Renewable energy resources have the potential to help us achieve important decarbonization goals, and these resources are most powerful when working together,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman. “As we move to a decarbonized power system, hydropower will play a critical and evolving role. Providing expert technical assistance from our national laboratories will help hydropower decision-makers better address the challenges and opportunities they face as we tackle climate change together and provide more clean energy to the American people.”

More information on the three NOTA selectees and the upcoming FOA can be found below.

Three Industry Partners to Receive Technical Assistance for Hydropower Decision Making

The funding provided through this NOTA will provide hydropower decision makers – like utilities, modelers, and technology developers – with access to National Lab expertise and capabilities to address current challenges and capture new opportunities for their systems. This work can equip these organizations, and the clean energy community broadly, with further understanding of how hydropower can most effectivity be used in an evolving power system.

Great River Hydro, Inflow Forecasting on New England’s Great River

Great River Hydro is New England’s largest conventional hydropower generator and operates sustainable hydropower systems in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Through this technical assistance project, they are seeking to assess the value of inflow forecasting tools and practices associated with hydropower generating resources on the Connecticut River in New Hampshire and Vermont. Hydropower with reservoir storage provides grid operators with flexible, fast-start, carbon free generation that enables penetration of other variable renewable resources into the grid. Great River Hydro’s innovative operations proposal requires precise inflow forecasting and dispatch planning to succeed. This project aims to improve hydropower operations with probabilistic forecasts, inflow forecasting, and dispatch planning.

Idaho Power Company, Idaho Power hydrogen production integration project

With 17 hydroelectric plants providing most of their power, Idaho Power Company provides power to more than 590,000 customers. Their project will identify hydrogen production technologies that could be effectively deployed at a hydropower facility to meet energy storage capacity needs and potentially use the oxygen byproduct to help mitigate water quality conditions. Hybrid hydropower/hydrogen production facilities could have significant benefits to transition to non-carbon sources of energy production and deployment. Such projects would facilitate moving hydrogen production from a niche market to a mainstream technology and tool. Moreover, hydrogen production could serve as a controllable load for improving the correlation between electrical load and generation profiles of electrical grids in which a large percentage of the generation is from variable renewable sources. 

Energy Exemplar, Enhance the representation of conventional hydropower data in production cost models (PCMs)

Energy Exemplar is the developer of PLEXOS, a widely used production cost model in the power system community. Through this project, they seek to improve the representation of hydropower operations to better capture hydropower’s complexity and enable better decisions. Their project would strengthen the capability of energy production models to assess economic impacts of hydropower capabilities, as well as peripheral impacts, such as bringing more renewables online, electric vehicle adoption, natural gas, energy storage, and other transmission impacts. Hydropower has the capability of providing some of the flexibility required by the power system, but research is required that pays careful attention to the many constraints on hydropower resources.

Upcoming Funding Opportunity to Increase Hydropower Flexibility

The FOA will seek next-generation technologies from manufacturers, equipment vendors, and research organizations to improve the operational flexibility of the U.S. hydropower fleet. Innovations submitted may range from the concept stage to prototype testing, preferably in partnership with a hydropower owner or operator. Technology innovations of interest include those that can actively expand the operational flexibility of the hydropower unit to provide grid services, as well as capabilities to reduce negative impacts of more flexible plant operation.

WPTO encourages collaboration and diverse partnerships to maximize the impact of work performed under this FOA and encourages the participation of underserved communities and underrepresented groups. Applicants are highly encouraged to include individuals from groups historically underrepresented in STEM on their project teams. Please refer to the full Notice of Intent for additional information.

The goal of WPTO’s HydroWIRES Initiative is to understand, enable, and improve hydropower and pumped storage hydropower’s contributions to reliability, resilience, and integration in the rapidly evolving U.S. electricity system. Visit our website to learn more about WPTO and HydroWIRES, and sign up for WPTO’s hydropower newsletter for the latest program updates.