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Current Issue: September 2020

WPTO Celebrates National Hydro Day with New Prize and Interagency MOU

Estimated read time: 7.5 minutes

National Hydropower Day Recap

August 24 marked National Hydropower Day, and to celebrate, DOE made a few big hydro announcements and highlighted this reliable, renewable resource over social media. Coincidentally, there was already a lot of discussion around hydropower leading up to National Hydropower Day. Just days before, the Bureau of Reclamation ramped up hydropower generation and shifted pumped storage operations in response to blackouts in California and to stabilize the western grid.

DOE Experts Discuss the Future of Hydro in a Rapidly Changing Grid

In partnership with the National Hydropower Association (NHA), WPTO Director Alejandro Moreno kicked off National Hydropower Day with National Laboratory researchers in a live discussion about “The Future of Hydro in a Rapidly Changing Grid: A DOE Perspective.” He was joined by Abhishek Somani, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL); Brenda Pracheil, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); and Gregory Brinkman, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Their conversation focused on the fundamentals, flexibility, and future of hydropower, as well as the renewable technology’s role in our rapidly changing power system.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Hydropower Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

On August 24, the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation, and the Department of the Army through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed an MOU to enhance collaboration and leverage resources to ensure the continued strength of the federal hydropower fleet. Assistant Secretary for EERE Daniel R Simmons signed the MOU on behalf of DOE at the Hoover Dam in Nevada. Watch the event to learn more.

Upcoming Prize Incentivizes Innovation in Hydro Foundations

At the Hydropower MOU signing event, Assistant Secretary Simmons also announced the upcoming Groundbreaking Hydro Prize, which will offer $300,000 in prizes to motivate innovators to identify novel ways to develop foundations for new, low-head hydropower facilities. Groundbreaking Hydro seeks to identify concepts that will specifically address the key challenges in geotechnical foundations for hydropower, including site assessment, foundation design, and construction. The prize will open to competitors in the coming months and is being administered by NREL and supported by ORNL.

STEM Spotlight

WPTO Opens 2021 Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC) to Applicants

Following the announcement of the 2020 MECC winners, WPTO opened the 2021 MECC for applications. The competition offers multidisciplinary teams the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and industry connections in marine energy while working on innovations that can play a vital role in powering the blue economy. Participating students will research and develop business plans, pitch their plans to a panel of judges and hypothetical investors, and have the option to perform actual prototype testing. New to the 2021 competition is the optional build and test segment, which will allow interested teams to build and test devices in a tank in spring 2021. To learn more about the competition and application process, visit the MECC website and attend the informational webinar on September 23.

STEM Portal Broadens Horizons of Prospective Water Power Workforce

As part of an effort to support the future water power workforce, WPTO and NREL partnered with the Hydropower Foundation to launch two Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) workforce development and education portals. Several new resources in each portal, including information on industry-led training programs, options for water power site visits, and curricula and lesson plans, were added in August. Explore what the future might hold for you with a career in water power. Visit the STEM portals for hydropower and marine renewable energy today and learn more.

Publications & Products

DOE Releases Updated Marine Hydrokinetic Regulatory Processes Handbook

Advanced technologies that produce electricity from moving water without the use of a dam are emerging in the renewable energy sector. These technologies, known as marine and hydrokinetics—or marine energy—generate electricity from the motion of waves, the free flow of tides, and ocean and river currents. To advance marine energy technologies and address key issues to innovation, WPTO aggregates and disseminates information on permitting and licensing processes used in siting projects. Last month, DOE released an updated version of the Handbook of Marine Hydrokinetic Regulatory Processes, an informational tool intended to help stakeholders easily find and understand federal and state authorization processes. The handbook outlines current federal and state regulatory requirements, provides clear, concise descriptions of the authorization processes, and identifies the agencies involved in these processes.

Photos of Marine Energy Technologies Available on Tethys Engineering

See the technologies created through marine energy research and development up close in the Tethys Engineering photo library. WPTO supports Tethys Engineering, which PNNL developed and maintains. In the photo library, you can find photos and illustrations of marine renewable energy devices, arrays, facilities, and monitoring equipment that over 40 developers worldwide have submitted. Tethys Engineering is also a resource to learn how different technologies work—such as how salinity gradient technologies generate electricity from the chemical pressure differential created by variations in ionic concentration between freshwater and saltwater.

Decision-Making Tool Will Quantify Cost vs. Benefit To Modernize U.S. Canal Systems

Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is partnering with PNNL to develop a decision-making tool that uses historic data and geographic information systems to help inform decisions about modernizing the more than 579 miles of U.S. canal systems. The tool will enable decision makers to assesses trade-offs of modernization options. For example, converting miles of an open canal to a pressurized pipeline would create hydroelectric power that can be sold and bring in new revenue, but is it enough to justify the conversion cost of approximately $1 million per mile? The decision support model will analyze the cost burden in relation to potential revenue through power sales. 

IEA Brochure Highlights Marine Energy and WPTO Director

This month, the International Energy Agency (IEA) Ocean Energy Systems (OES) released the “Blue Economy and its Promising Markets for Ocean Energy” brochure spotlighting experts in the marine energy industry. The brochure features an interview with WPTO Director Alejandro Moreno, who discusses the Powering the Blue Economy™ (PBE) report and initiative and provides insight into potential blue economy markets as well as WPTO’s PBE goals and partnerships.

Webinars & Virtual Events

Sandia Webinar on Wave Energy Controls

On September 21, Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia) will present a webinar that will detail a new approach for considering control co-design of wave energy converter (WEC) power take-off (PTO) systems. This approach allows for WEC control to be extended to consider PTO dynamics, enabling designers to better understand how PTO components will affect overall performance. Sandia will share a matrix laboratory (MATLAB) LiveScript demonstrating the methods to further illustrate key concepts.

Webinar Series Highlights Ocean Observing Prize

As part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) weekly webinar series, WPTO and NOAA will discuss the Ocean Observing Prize on September 23 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. The prize team will share successes from the first stage of the prize and provide an overview of the recently announced DEVELOP Competition. Additionally, the team will discuss opportunities for government agencies to engage with both the competitors and the prize team.

In Case You Missed It

Water Security Grand Challenge Webinar Series Features Waves to Water

On August 25, as part of the Water Security Grand Challenge webinar series, WPTO discussed the Waves to Water Prize, the first prize announced under the challenge. Offering $3.3 million in prizes, Waves to Water is focused on advancing transformational technology to meet the global need for secure and affordable water. Watch the webinar recording to learn more. If you would like to get involved with supporting the prize teams or offering your expertise, we welcome your partnership! Learn more by reading the Waves to Water Partnership Package.

Closed-Loop Configuration Increases Pumped-Storage Hydropower Market Viability

Eliminating the geologic risk of underground powerhouses in pumped-storage hydropower (PSH) construction can lower costs, improve performance, and promote environmental stewardship in the context of closed-loop PSH systems. A flexible pump-turbine design developed by Obermeyer Hydro, Inc., with support from NREL, has the potential to reduce project costs, shorten deployment timelines, and increase market viability of PSH in a variety of pumped storage projects, including reservoirs, seawater, and potable water storage.

PNNL Study Considers Pumped Storage Hydropower Environmental Effects

PNNL conducted a comparative study to evaluate the environmental effects of building and operating two types of PSH: the traditional open-loop system and a relatively new closed-loop concept. The study shows closed-loop PSH systems provide more opportunities to minimize environmental effects to aquatic and terrestrial habitats than open-loop systems. However, closed-loop systems that use groundwater to fill and replenish their reservoirs could potentially have greater impacts on geology, soils, and groundwater quantity and quality than open-loop systems, which use surface water. Read PNNL’s recommendations and full report to gain insight into future steps.

EERE Program Information Center Hosts Live Demo on September 24

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (EERE) is launching a new website that will replace eXCHANGE for funding opportunity announcements and application submissions. Beginning November 2, 2020, organizations interested in responding to EERE Fiscal Year 2021 opportunities will use the EERE Program Information Center to view open opportunities and submit applications.

To help prepare applicants for the transition from eXCHANGE to the EERE Program Information Center, the Energy Department is hosting a live demo to preview the new submissions and registration process on Thursday, September 24, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. ET. Anyone involved or interested in responding to EERE opportunities is encouraged to participate. The demo is a great opportunity to see the new submissions and registration processes firsthand and ask any questions about the new system.

Register today for the demo. Participants are encouraged to submit questions in advance. Send us your questions in advance or during the webinar using WebEx’s chat function.

Learn more about what’s new in the EERE Program Information Center.

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