Logo H2Os prize.

H2Os Prize competitors are helping solve some of the most near-term challenges in the clean energy transition by optimizing hydropower operations to improve grid reliability and resiliency. The third and final phase of the three-phase prize is now open to new and returning competitors.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) today announced six winners in the second phase of the Hydropower Operations Optimization (H2Os) Prize. These teams developed high-tech solutions to improve hydropower operations and grid resiliency, with the goal of supporting U.S. efforts to achieve a carbon-free power grid by 2035.

“These innovators are helping define hydropower’s role in a more resilient energy system,” said Sam Bockenhauer, lead of WPTO’s Hydropower and Water Innovation for a Resilient Electricity System (HydroWIRES) Initiative. “Their solutions are exploring how hydropower can best provide flexible, on-demand power for our grid, especially as more variable renewable energy resources become part of the mix.”

Today’s hydropower fleet is renewable and flexible, but new water management techniques, including those being developed by these teams, can help maximize that flexibility and ultimately support the integration of more variable renewable energy resources like wind and solar.

Phase Two increased the difficulty for the seven returning competitors from Phase One and welcomed one new competitor. It challenged them to optimize additional hydropower facilities and implement and satisfy more complex water management requirements, all while respecting grid transmission constraints.

Team HydroFlex, led by Alex Farley at the University of Utah, was awarded the $7,500 first prize for Phase Two.

In addition, the following teams were awarded $1,500 each for their innovative ideas to expand hydropower’s role in the clean energy transition in Phase Two:

  • Vassar Labs Inc. led by Laxmiprasad Putta from Woburn, Massachusetts
  • Wenyuan Tang at North Carolina State University
  • Maroon 3 led by Sungkwang Mun at Mississippi State University
  • MST_Power led by Rui Bo at Missouri University of Science and Technology
  • Rick Matter, software engineer from Macedon, New York.

As part of WPTO’s HydroWIRES Initiative, the three-stage H2Os Prize challenges innovators to present new hydropower operational strategies by applying 21st century solutions. Competitors use modeling, optimization, and machine learning to create new ways for hydropower systems to plan daily grid operations and meet water management needs, such as water supply, environmental flow requirements, and flood management.

The H2Os Prize includes a third and final phase, which is open to new and returning competitors. Phase Three builds on earlier phases while focusing on weather-related challenges and operations. Potential competitors were encouraged to join the H2Os Prize Phase Three informational webinar on Oct. 11 at 4 p.m. ET. Phase Three submissions were due Nov. 11, 2022.

The H2Os Prize welcomes applications from a broad set of competitors from hydropower, machine learning, data science, and/or optimization communities. Diverse, multidisciplinary teams are encouraged to apply to help solve some of the most near-term challenges in the clean energy transition by improving the performance of hydropower system operations.  

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

Learn more about participating in the prize and contact WPTOPrizes@ee.doe.gov for more information. 

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