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Prizes represent tools for the Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) to find solutions by tapping into the ingenuity and creativity of solvers nationwide. These prize models support the Administration’s work to spur manufacturing, develop innovative solutions and products, and create new domestic jobs and opportunities through public-private partnerships. Currently, WPTO is co-funding a National Academies project on the “Role of Inducement Prizes” which produce a report that analyzes the role of inducement prizes in the American innovation process.

Prizes can help introduce, expand, and evolve what’s possible for both the hydropower and marine energy industries. They can enable WPTO–and the federal government– to:

  • Inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to solve difficult and important problems.
  • Establish ambitious goals without having to predict which team or approach is most likely to succeed.
  • Reach beyond the usual stakeholders to increase the number of perspectives working to develop solutions for a specific problem.
  • Foster interdisciplinary collaboration and perspectives, reflective of the modern research environment.
  • Prizes and challenges make it easy for anyone to participate bringing people together from private sector and government to leverage resources.
  • Make innovation easy, fast, and agile. Rapid innovation cycles will help boost competitiveness and accelerate the transition of inventions to industry.
  • Collaborate closely with other federal agencies in the design and implementation of prizes through

Every prize is structured differently, and the details matter. Make sure to follow the detailed instructions to submit your entry correctly and before the posted deadline.

Current Prizes & Competitions

Fish protection prize illustrated graphic of a river side and fish swimming.

Fish Protection Prize

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, has launched the Fish Protection Prize, inspiring innovators to compete for $700,000 of combined cash prizes and voucher support to help protect fish from these threats. As many as three winners will be selected. This prize builds on the initial Fish Exclusion Prize, run by the Bureau of Reclamation, released on March 6, 2019. The winners of the first prize were announced in December 2019.

The Fish Protection Prize is catalyzing new solutions, designs, and strategies to protect fish from water infrastructure, such as water diversions and pipes, and intakes at hydropower dams. We’re seeking innovative ideas to advance fish exclusion technology. Competitors can propose solutions for any fish species found in the United States and that can be applied to river and irrigation canal diversions, unscreened diversion pipes for irrigation or municipal water supplies, cooling water intakes of power plants, or dam intakes. New ideas for addressing fish exclusion or improvements to existing technologies are also welcome.

Visit the competition website for more details.

Illustration of a river and mountains.

Groundbreaking Hydro Prize

Geotechnical foundations are fundamental to dam safety, stability, and performance and can present technical and economic challenges for new hydropower development. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) has launched the Groundbreaking Hydro Prize to seek innovative solutions to key challenges faced in developing foundations for new hydropower projects.

The Groundbreaking Hydro Prize is inspiring innovators to compete for up to $300,000 in cash prizes with new ideas to cut the costs, timelines, and risks associated with hydropower development, specifically related to geotechnical foundations for low-head applications. Solutions may stem from within the hydropower industry or leverage transformational technologies from a diverse set of fields, from advanced manufacturing to offshore wind, and beyond to ultimately address one or more of the three foundation development phases: geotechnical site assessment, foundation design, and foundation construction.

Visit the competition website for more details.

logo that says "I AM Hydro"


Advanced manufacturing is revolutionizing the way products are designed and built for countless industries by lowering costs, improving designs, and reducing production timelines. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) has announced the Innovations in Advanced Manufacturing for Hydropower (I AM Hydro) Prize to lower costs of hydropower components and systems designs by leveraging advancements in manufacturing and material.

I AM Hydro is inspiring disruptors and innovators to compete for up to $250,000 in cash prizes and help support the hydropower industry using the ingenuity of advanced manufacturing. The prize is designed to spur innovation by engaging a national community of visionaries who are not typically associated with the hydropower industry and target levelized cost of energy reductions in hydropower design, manufacturing, and operation and maintenance.

Visit the competition website for more details.

Blue logo that says "U.S. Department of Energy Marine Energy Collegiate Competition: Powering the Blue Economy"

Marine Energy Collegiate Competition

DOE is hosting a challenge for university students to advance one of the most up-and-coming industries: marine energy. WPTO will host the first Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC) designed to challenge 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 will provide students with real-world experience and industry connections that will help them prepare for future careers in the marine energy sector and the blue economy.

The inaugural MECC will be held virtually on various dates in May, June, and July. Further details are provided in the 2020 Rules & Requirements.

Visit the 2020 competition website for more details.

ocean observing prize logo

Ocean Observing Prize

Ocean observations underpin our ability to understand the ocean, predict and track potentially destructive tropical storms, monitor fish stocks that communities depend on for sustenance, alert coastal areas of deadly tsunamis, and even monitor for sub-sea activities of foreign powers to protect our uniformed service members. However, over 80% of the ocean remains unexplored, and without the requisite observations, data, monitoring, and forecasting capabilities, it is difficult for industry to make the strategic siting, development, and management decisions needed to realize the full potential of the blue economy. Given the improvements in computer processing over the last two decades, energy has become the primary constraint on the capabilities of affordable ocean observing platforms such as sensors, autonomous underwater vehicles, buoys, floats, tags, and more.

The Ocean Observing Prize seeks innovators to integrate marine renewable energy with ocean observation platforms, ultimately revolutionizing our capability to collect the data needed to understand and map the ocean. This prize is jointly offered by WPTO and the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) program at NOAA. The Ocean Observing Prize will include a series of competitions over several years to encourage rapid innovation in the fields of marine energy and ocean observations to develop solutions that meet the needs of ocean researchers, agencies, explorers, and other end-users.

Visit the competition website for more details.

prize logo that says "waves to water prize"

Waves To Water Prize

The U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Technologies Office invites you to submit your ideas to develop wave powered desalination systems for the Waves to Water Prize. The Waves to Water Prize is a 5-Stage, $3.3M contest to accelerate the development of small, modular, wave-powered desalination systems capable of providing potable drinking water in disaster relief scenarios and remote coastal locations.

The prize supports the integration of existing and novel wave energy generation technologies with water technologies that can deliver effective, consistent, durable, and low-maintenance water delivery systems. The prize seeks to identify the ideal scale of wave energy innovation paired with water technologies that can serve niche markets such as disaster response, and advance the state of both wave energy devices and desalination technologies that could provide value in other markets as the technologies mature.

Visit the competition website for more details.

Past Prizes

Furthering Advancements to Shorten Time to Commissioning for Pumped Storage Hydropower Prize (FAST Prize)

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) invites you to share your ideas to reduce the time, cost, and risk from concept to commissioning, excluding permitting, for pumped-storage hydropower (PSH). Finalists will receive vouchers for up to 50 hours of support from one of four DOE national laboratories to prepare for a pitch contest which will result in up to 3 winners and up to $550,000 of combined cash prizes and voucher support.

The Furthering Advancements to Shorten Time (FAST) Commissioning for Pumped-Storage Hydropower Prize aims to attract ideas to reduce the time, cost, and risk required to commission PSH projects. This is the first prize of its kind and is structured to support anyone with a great idea and the motivation to develop their idea into a full business concept.

This competition is closed and finalists have been chosen. Follow their progress at the competition website.

Wave Energy Prize

In 2016, AquaHarmonics took home the $1.5 million grand prize in the Energy Department'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.