Innovations for Low-Impact Hydropower Growth

Project Name: I AM Hydro Prize

Project Team: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (lead) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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In December 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office announced 11 winning teams of the Innovations in Advanced Manufacturing for Hydropower (I AM Hydro) Prize. The single-stage competition, administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and with support from partners, invited participants who may not normally affiliate with the hydropower industry to innovate solutions that decrease costs of hydropower components and systems, as well as leverage advancements in manufacturing and materials. Each winner received a cash prize from a pool of $175,000 to further evolve and develop their concept throughout 2021.

The top-placing innovation was Cadens LLC’s Utility of Large Area AM for Small Hydro, which involves the design and construction of 3D-printed turbine components via additive manufacturing to produce a low-cost, readily customizable, modular small hydropower system. Other prize-winning concepts included retrofitting of non-powered dams using 3D concrete printing, additive manufacturing technology paired with modern advances in robotics to enable superior repair, artificial intelligence to optimize turbines, antifouling coating for hydropower cost reductions, and magnets to increase generator efficiency and lower energy production costs. All 11 concepts explored the potential applications of advanced manufacturing for hydropower and revealed various possibilities to improve conventional hydropower manufacturing.

Innovations for Low-Impact Hydropower Growth Projects