Today, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, on behalf of the Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO), announced nine new national lab-directed projects to advance the HydroWIRES (Water Innovation for a Resilient Electricity System) Initiative. HydroWIRES aims to maximize hydropower’s contributions to a decarbonized, reliable, and resilient grid.

The selected projects will create tools and products to support the industry’s decision-making abilities. For example, these projects will enable the U.S. hydropower community to more accurately model future water availability, evaluate opportunities for adding hydropower to non-powered dams, and understand how to operate hydropower to mitigate wildfires’ impacts to the power grid.

WPTO will award a total of $16 million across nine projects involving five national laboratories, including Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Idaho National Laboratory (INL), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). The awarded projects will address one of five topic areas. The nine awarded projects are described below under the relevant topic areas:

Topic 1: Lowering Barriers to Deployment of Hydropower Hybrids

  • Hydro+Storage: Accelerating Industry Deployment of Hydropower Hybrids
    • Lead Lab: INL
    • Additional Partners: ANL, NREL, American Governor
    • This project seeks to develop tools and tactics that will advise current and future hydropower hybridization efforts. Hydropower hybrids—or the combined operation of hydropower with other energy generation or storage technologies—have the potential to increase value for hydropower owners while also leveraging hydropower’s non-power benefits. The project team aims to provide deployable solutions to accelerate the potential of hydro-storage hybrids.

Topic 2: Developing Tools to Evaluate Environment-Flexibility Tradeoffs

  • Energy Flexibility-Environmental Tradeoff Tool
    • Lead Lab: ORNL
    • Additional Partners: PNNL, ANL, INL, NREL
    • This project will build on previous research led by the labs to understand the flexibility and environmental tradeoffs involved in hydropower operation. Researchers will develop a user-friendly tool that helps operators analyze the flexibility-environmental tradeoffs of hydropower operations. This is expected to lead to improved support of variable renewable generation without sacrificing river ecosystem health.

Topic 3: Improving Hydropower Representation in Power System Models

  • A Framework for Addressing Hydropower Modeling Gaps in Grid Planning and Operation Studies
    • Lead Lab: PNNL
    • Additional Partners: NREL, INL, V&R Energy
    • This project will provide a critical update to dynamic models of hydropower generators that were developed in the 1960s and 1970s. Researchers will also develop tools that provide an accurate, updated representation of water availability and hydropower generation constraints in different models. These accurate representations will allow will give system planners and operators a more realistic understanding of operating reserves, resulting in fewer unexpected outages.

Topic 4: Modelling Collaborations with Norway

  • Electricity Market Design in Zero Marginal Cost Systems–Experiences and Insights for Hydropower in the United States and Norway
    • Lead Lab: ANL
    • Additional Partners: PNNL, The Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research at the Norwegian Institute of Technology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
    • The overall goal of this project is to provide insights to market design changes that will smoothen the transition to a decarbonized power system. To obtain these insights, this project will analyze the market design initiatives in the U.S. and Norway. Since hydropower is a likely to be a strong driver of price formation in zero marginal cost systems, the team will focus on areas with high penetrations of hydropower and renewables to identify best practices to that will guide future collaborations. The final deliverable will be a whitepaper on the efficacy of different market design measures in future decarbonized systems.  This work will be pursued under the framework of DOE’s memorandum of understanding with Norway’s Royal Ministry of Petroleum and Energy.
  • Grid and Market Integration of Hydropower and Wind Energy: Challenges and Opportunities
    • Lead Lab: ANL
    • Additional Partners: INL, The Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research at the Norwegian Institute of Technology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
    • This project seeks to build an archive of case studies documenting the co-existence of hydropower and wind turbines across the U.S. and Norway, while also investigating challenges and opportunities for hydropower resources as wind penetration increases. This work will be instrumental in identifying locations in both countries that may be prone to facing these challenges in the future. This project will increase foundational understanding of the combination of hydropower and wind turbines, in turn helping to advise future projects of this nature. This work will be pursued under the framework of DOE’s memorandum of understanding with Norway’s Royal Ministry of Petroleum and Energy.

Topic 5: Open Topic

  • Real Time Inertia Monitor Based on Pumped Hydro Operation Signatures
    • Lead Lab: ORNL
    • Additional Partners: University of Tennessee, North American Electric Reliability Corporation, Dominion Energy, Tennessee Valley Authority
    • This project seeks to develop a real-time, low-cost, accurate inertia monitoring system for pumped storage hydropower plants. Monitoring inertia is essential for stable system operation, especially in high-renewable grids, but traditional inertia estimation approaches do not work in systems with high penetrations of inverter based resources. Researchers will demonstrate and deploy their monitoring system by the end of the two-year project.
  • Emulating Hydropower in a Controlled Real-world Environment at ARIES for Rapid Prototyping of Next-generation Hydro-controls
    • Lead Lab: NREL
    • This project aims to solve the industry problem of risky, expensive, and time-consuming field validation of new hydropower governor controls by developing a controlled lab environment for evaluation. In this environment, researchers will be able to easily plug in real controller hardware to test under various grid conditions. This effort will utilize a variety of ARIES’ tools, including digital real-time simulation, actual hardware grid controllers, digital governors, variable speed hydro-generator, and more.
  • Evaluating Options for Non-Powered Dams to Provide Grid, Community, Industry, and Environmental Benefits
    • Lead Lab: INL
    • Additional Partners: PNNL, Sapere Consulting
    • This project aims to create a ranking framework that weighs various hydropower and energy storage options for non-powered dams (NPDs). With about 600 NPDs in the U.S. identified as having potential to generate hydropower, NPDs are a high impact option for new hydropower development. To evaluate and justify investment in NPDs moving forward, researchers will develop a system to evaluate costs and benefits of various NPD projects to their communities, the environment, and the grid. The ranking system will include standardized criteria to compare various options against one another.
  • Hydro-Based Microgrids to Support Grid Resiliency during Wildfires
    • Lead Lab: PNNL
    • Additional Partners: INL
    • As wildfires are becoming more severe and commonplace in the U.S., researchers are evaluating how to mitigate the impacts from west coast wildfires on the grid since power is often critical for life-saving services. This project will create a framework to leverage hydropower resources to ensure grid resilience during and after wildfire events.

These projects address the mission of the HydroWIRES Initiative to understand, enable, and improve hydropower’s contributions to reliability, resilience, and integration in the rapidly evolving U.S. electricity system. Additional information about the HydroWIRES Initiative can be found on the WPTO website.

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