Illustration of a river and mountains.
Credit: NREL

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) announced two winners of the Groundbreaking Hydro Prize, which challenged innovators to come up with new solutions to support hydropower project development by starting at square one—the foundation. 

The foundation of a hydropower system provides structural stability, which is essential to dam safety. However, foundation design and construction can pose significant challenges that could jeopardize a project’s success. 

The prize was developed by WPTO, in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), to incentivize innovators to develop concepts to cut costs and project delays associated with small-hydropower project development. 

Part of the American-Made Challenge series, the prize solicited solutions to address key challenges faced in one or more of the three hydropower foundation development phases: geotechnical site assessment, foundation design, and foundation construction. The prize was open to a multidisciplinary field of applicants, from those in hydropower and dam safety construction, to advanced manufacturing and beyond.

Two teams, were chosen as winners and will share a cash prize pool of $75,000. The Groundbreaking Prize winner will receive $50,000, while $25,000 will go to the Innovator Prize winner:

Groundbreaking Prize: 

  • Team: GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc and Littoral Power Systems, Terra-Modular Project
  • Concept: Prefabrication of a modular hydropower foundation for a wide range of soils and substructures.

Innovator Prize: 

  • Team: Team Chemventive, WaterJet Drill with a Deep Array of Anchor Cables Concept 
  • Concept: Deep array of high-tension cables drilled through solid rock, using a water-jet drilling robot, to secure a steel dam in tension.

To learn more about the Groundbreaking Hydro Prize, visit the prize website and/or contact groundbreaking.hydro@nrel.gov. Interested in receiving periodic updates from WPTO? Sign up for the office’s Water Wire newsletter and/or new hydropower listserv.