The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) today announced four winners in the fourth phase of the Hydropower Operations Optimization (H2Os) Prize. Over four phases, the H2Os Prize challenged innovators to upgrade hydropower technology using 21st century solutions, such as modeling and machine learning, with the goal of leveraging hydropower resources to improve the nation’s energy infrastructure and support a 100% clean energy grid. Winning teams split a $70,000 cash prize pool based on their performance during an in-person competition held in conjunction with the National Hydropower Association’s Clean Currents Conference

Woman handing a large check to a man
WPTO Director Jennifer Garson presents the grand prize to Linear Intelligence.
Image by Werner Slocum, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

“Bringing these competitors together under one roof gave them the opportunity to demonstrate impressive, real-time problem solving,” said Dr. Sam Bockenhauer, WPTO’s Hydropower and Water Innovation for a Resilient Electricity System (HydroWIRES) Initiative lead. “In an exciting, one-day competition, they showed us their unique approaches to enabling hydropower to provide flexible, on-demand power for our grid. These approaches are a strong illustration of hydropower’s role in our clean energy future.” 

Hydropower currently accounts for 28.7% of total U.S. renewable electricity generation and about 6.2% of total U.S. electricity generation. As the United States works to create a clean energy grid by 2035, hydropower will be crucial to its reliability, resilience, and overall performance. H2Os Prize teams are helping make hydropower more flexible by offering and demonstrating new ideas on how this resource can provide on-demand power, especially as more variable renewable energy resources are added to the grid.

People participating in and supporting the H2Os Prize stand in front of four posters.
Four teams participated in a live competition on Oct. 11, 2023, in the fourth and final phase of the H2Os Prize with eight judges from WPTO, NREL, and RTI evaluating in real time.
Image by Werner Slocum, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The teams that most successfully designed strategies to optimize hydropower operations are:  

  • Linear Intelligence of Apex, North Carolina, was awarded the $25,000 grand prize.  
  • Grid Vision Technologies of Rolla, Missouri, was awarded $20,000 for second place. 
  • Vassar Labs Inc. of Woburn, Massachusetts, was awarded $15,000 for third place. 
  • Equipe LPS/H2Os of New Bedford, Massachusetts, was awarded $10,000 for fourth place. 

During the month prior to the in-person competition, teams trained their machine learning and optimization models. On the competition day, teams acted as river basin managers, competing to find the best water release schedules. They were challenged to respond to an unexpected wildfire in the vicinity of the river basin. The top ranked team was able to handle environmental conditions created by this wildfire and still maximize revenue and reduce emissions impacts while respecting physical and environmental constraints of the water system.   

The prize is part of WPTO’s HydroWIRES Initiative.  

The H2Os Prize is funded by WPTO and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in partnership with RTI International.    

Stay up to date with the latest hydropower funding opportunities, events, and news by subscribing to the monthly Hydro Headlines and bimonthly Water Wire newsletters.