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In celebration of Hydropower Day on August 24, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation, and the Department of the Army through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to enhance collaboration and leverage resources to ensure the continued strength of the federal hydropower fleet.

Hydropower plays a critical role in the U.S. power system, as both source of renewable, affordable energy and as a firm, flexible resource that ensures the reliability of the grid.  This MOU builds on previous work between the agencies to support American hydropower through long-term coordination, prioritize similar goals, and align ongoing and future renewable energy development efforts. DOE’s Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Daniel R Simmons, signed the MOU on behalf of the Department at the Hoover Dam in Nevada today.

"Our collaboration with the Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers allows us to continue to leverage our resources so reliable and affordable hydropower will help meet the nation’s energy needs long into the future," said Assistant Secretary Simmons. "As an energy resource that is both flexible and renewable, hydropower has an essential role to play in ensuring the grid continues to be reliable and resilient as it evolves."

The MOU and forthcoming action plan will detail overarching topics to increase sustainable hydropower generation and flexibility, while identifying a specific set of activities that the agencies will collectively undertake. These commitments were designed to represent continually evolving and improving approaches to hydropower operations, management and innovation that will reduce costs, increase flexibility and support additional clean, renewable power generation.

The MOU builds on a strong history of collaboration in federal hydropower. For example in January, the DOE and the Bureau of Reclamation jointly launched 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 prize finalists were announced in June 2020.

While at the event, Simmons also announced the upcoming Groundbreaking Hydro Prize, which will offer $300,000 in prizes to incentivize innovators to identify novel ways to develop foundations for new, low-head hydropower facilities. Groundbreaking Hydro seeks to identify concepts that will specifically address the key challenges in geotechnical foundations for hydropower, including site assessment, foundation design, and construction. The prize will open to competitors in the coming months, and is being administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and supported by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The prize was informed by the recently released Hydropower Geotechnical Foundations report. Supported by DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office and developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the study documents the current state of practice in geotechnical foundation design and construction for hydropower systems.