Finance, North America, Pumped Storage Hydro, Research and Development

U.S. DOE announces four grand prize winners in FAST prize competition

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Water Power Technologies Office has announced four grand prize winners in the Furthering Advancements to Shorten Time (FAST) Commissioning for Pumped-Storage Hydropower Prize competition, which aims to help accelerate commissioning times and reduce cost and risk for pumped storage projects.

“This prize sought fresh solutions and technologies from innovators to address the non-regulatory challenges that PSH developers face when deploying new projects such as significant upfront capital costs, a lack of market certainty, and long construction times,” said Daniel R Simmons, DOE’s Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “The grand prize-winning ideas for this key storage technology will help bring more PSH online to support increased integration of variable renewable resources like wind and solar.”

The prize competition seeks novel solutions and technologies that address the non-regulatory challenges pumped storage hydro developers face when deploying new storage projects and aims to attract ideas to reduce the time, cost and risk required to commission these projects. It is structured to provide support through full business concept development.

Competitors proposed technical solutions to accelerate commissioning times for pumped storage at a Pitch Day event, the final stage of the competition. The grand prize winners were selected from a group of nine concept stage winners, who were given three months and 50 hours of in-kind technical support from the partnering DOE national laboratories — including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory — to develop their ideas.

The four grand prize winners receive up to $550,000 in vouchers and cash prizes. They are:

  • Reducing PSH Excavation Duration, Cost, & Risk – Tracy Livingston, individual competitor, combined excavation equipment modifications and process optimizations to achieve up to 50% reduction in excavation timelines.
  • Accelerating PSH Construction with Steel Dams – Gordon Wittmeyer, Southwest Research Institute, presented a modular steel concept for dams that cuts costs by one-third and cuts construction schedules in half.
  • Use of Modern TBMs for Underground Pumped Storage – Doug Spaulding, Nelson Energy and Golder Associates, proposed use of tunnel boring machines for underground excavation, which can decrease excavation time by 50% and reduce costs.

Modular Closed-Loop Scalable Pump Storage Hydro – Tom Eldredge and Hector Medina, Liberty University, presented a modular closed-loop, scalable PSH system with a capacity range of 1 MW to 10 MW, adaptable to sites without natural bodies of water.

The FAST Prize competition, part of the American-Made Challenge series, is funded by the Water Power Technologies Office and administered by NREL.