The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office's (WPTO) prizes and competitions are unique, accessible funding mechanisms that focus on advancing the water power sector. These competitions invite innovators nationwide to explore challenges within hydropower and marine energy and propose targeted solutions to overcome those challenges.

WPTO's prize models also encourage innovators to mitigate the impacts of climate change, transition to an equitable clean energy future, and bolster a clean energy workforce. WPTO engages the broader industry, including partners and sponsors, to support the progress competitors make within the prizes through mentorship, trainings, and industry connections. Learn more about how your organization can get involved

 

Current Prizes & Competitions

INNOVATING DISTRIBUTED EMBEDDED ENERGY PRIZE

WPTO launched the $2.3 million Innovating Distributed Embedded Energy Prize (InDEEP), which encourages innovation in distributed embedded energy converter technology to generate new, precommercial materials for wave energy conversion. This prize challenges innovators from within and beyond wave energy to design and develop novel materials for marine energy applications that will lay the foundation for generating electricity at the grid scale.

Visit the competition website for more details.

Hydropower Collegiate Competition

WPTO and NREL established the Hydropower Collegiate Competition (HCC) in partnership with the Hydropower Foundation to pave the way for next-generation workers to start their clean energy careers and offer solutions to complex hydropower challenges. The HCC calls on interdisciplinary teams of undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of academic programs to help this renewable resource achieve its full potential and contribute to a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.

Visit the competition website for more details. 

MAKE A SPLASH PHOTO AND VIDEO CONTEST

WPTO created the Make a Splash Photo and Video Contest to recognize and document the latest advancements in water power technologies, research and development activities, and infrastructure. The contest also seeks to showcase the people behind water power technologies and the communities that benefit from hydropower and marine energy. Through Make A Splash, photographers and videographers can help WPTO showcase the scope and potential of water power as a renewable energy resource.

Visit the competition website for more details.

Marine Energy Collegiate Competition

The annual Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC) invites interdisciplinary teams of undergraduate and graduate students to offer unique solutions to the burgeoning marine energy industry that can play a vital role in powering the blue economy. The competition provides students with real-world experience and industry connections that will help them prepare for future careers in the marine energy sector.

Visit the competition website for more details.

Power at Sea Prize

The Power at Sea Prize seeks new, innovative, and feasible marine energy concepts that can fulfill Powering the Blue Economy initiatives—including supporting offshore industries, science, and security activities, and meeting the energy and water needs of coastal and rural island communities. The prize, which was developed by WPTO in collaboration with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and programs within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, aims to nurture innovative technologies that utilize the ocean’s inherent power to enable sustainable and responsible use of resources.

Visit the competition website for more details.

 

Discover more prizes supported by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, like the Community Energy Innovation Prize.

 

Past Prizes

When fish swim into pipes and dam intakes, they become separated from their natural habitat, which impacts native populations, threatens biodiversity, and impedes recovery efforts for threatened and endangered species. WPTO, in collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, launched the Fish Protection Prize to inspire innovators to compete for $700,000 of combined cash prizes and voucher support to help protect fish from these threats. In September 2020, three teams were selected as grand prize winners and worked alongside researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to advance their solutions.

This competition is closed. Learn about the grand prize winners on the competition website

The Furthering Advancements to Shorten Time (FAST) Commissioning for Pumped Storage Hydropower Prize was designed to attract ideas to reduce the time, cost, and risk required to commission pumped storage hydropower projects. The FAST Prize was structured to support anyone with a great idea and the motivation to develop it into a full business concept. In October 2019, four grand prize winners each received a share of the $550,000 cash and in-kind support prize pool for their innovative ideas to accelerate the historically slow process of commissioning pumped storage hydropower projects.

This competition is closed. Visit the competition website to learn more about the prize winners.

Geotechnical foundations are fundamental to dam safety, stability, and performance but can present technical and economic challenges for new hydropower design and construction. WPTO launched the Groundbreaking Hydro Prize to encourage new ideas to cut the costs, timelines, and risks associated with hydropower development. In April 2021, two teams were selected as winners to share a cash pool of $75,000 after coming up with new solutions to support hydropower project development by starting at the foundation.

This competition is closed. Visit the competition website to learn more about the prize winners.

WPTO launched the Hydropower Operations Optimization (H2Os) Prize to develop new solutions for hydropower operations in coordination with existing grid scheduling practices. The competition challenged innovators to respect water management operations and constraints through modeling, data analytics, and machine learning. The final stage of the prize took place in October 2023 at an in-person event, where teams acted as river basin managers, competing to find the best water release schedules. Four winning teams split a $70,000 cash prize pool based on their performance during the final competition.

This competition is closed. Visit the competition website to learn more about the prize winners.

WPTO launched the Innovations in Advanced Manufacturing for Hydropower (I AM Hydro) Prize to lower the costs of hydropower components and systems designs by leveraging advancements in manufacturing and materials. I AM Hydro engaged a national community of visionaries who are not typically associated with the hydropower industry to target reductions in the levelized cost of energy of hydropower design, manufacturing, and operations and maintenance. I AM Hydro innovators competed for $175,000 in cash prizes and helped support the hydropower industry using the ingenuity of advanced manufacturing. 11 winners shared a cash prize pool of $175,000.

This competition is closed. Visit the competition website to learn more about the prize winners.

 

DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity launched the $2.5 million Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize to foster an equitable clean energy future by investing in community-led innovation and entrepreneurship. This prize is part of the Justice40 Initiative to deliver at least 40% of the overall benefits from certain federal investments in clean energy to disadvantaged communities. In June 2023, DOE announced six grand prize winners who received $250,000 each for their entrepreneurship, job-training, mentorship, and other solutions to expand clean energy and economic opportunities in underrepresented communities.

This competition is closed. Visit the competition website to learn about the prize winners.

The Powering the Blue Economy: Ocean Observing Prize challenges innovators to integrate marine renewable energy with ocean observation platforms such as weather buoys and autonomous underwater vehicles. This joint prize between WPTO and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Integrated Ocean Observing System aims to develop needed technologies to better understand, map, and monitor our oceans.

Visit the competition website for more details.

In 2016, AquaHarmonics took home the $1.5 million grand prize in DOE’s Wave Energy Prize, an 18-month design-build-test competition to increase the energy capture potential of wave energy devices. CalWave Power Technologies and Waveswing America were awarded second and third place, respectively, with $500,000 and $250,000 in cash prizes. The goal of the Wave Energy Prize was to stimulate the development of innovative wave energy converters that have the prospect for becoming commercially competitive with other forms of electricity generation.

This competition is closed. Learn more about the winners.

Through the five-stage, $3.3 million Powering the Blue Economy Waves to Water Prize, WPTO aimed to accelerate innovation in small, modular, cost-competitive desalination systems that use the power of ocean waves to provide clean drinking water for disaster recovery and for remote coastal communities. Over three years, the prize offered innovators a pathway from initial concept to technical design, prototype, and field testing. The final stage of the prize took place in April 2022, when finalists tested their systems in partnership with the Coastal Studies Institute at Jennette's Pier on the coast of North Carolina. Oneka Technologies won the grand prize, and all four finalists shared a cash prize pool of $500,000. 

This competition is closed. Visit the competition website for more details.