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NREL names three Fish Protection Prize winners, issues deadlines for other hydro prizes

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) named three winners for its Fish Protection Prize, the conclusion of a virtual PITCH CONTEST held at the American Fisheries Society Virtual Annual Meeting last week.

Through the Fish Protection Prize, DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) solicited sustainable solutions that allow hydropower and fish to thrive side by side. The American-Made Challenges prize was conducted in partnership with the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and is administered by NREL in collaboration with DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The prize brought together a broad spectrum of innovators from industry, academia and entrepreneurs, NREL said. The competitors were tasked with developing new solutions, designs and strategies to protect fish from water infrastructure, such as water diversions, pipes and intakes at hydropower facilities.

As part of the PITCH CONTEST, the teams presented a 10-minute pitch, followed by a 10-minute question-and-answer period to introduce their concepts, the technical and market feasibility, and their research and development plans.

“From the development of next-generation fish screens to the use of air bubbles and pulsating light, this group of competitors raised the bar for what’s possible in the realm of tomorrow’s fish protection technologies,” said Tessa Greco, prize administrator at NREL.

Three teams were selected for the Fish Protection Grand Prize:

  • In first place, taking home $200,000 in cash and $100,000 in voucher support from PNNL, are Benjamin Mater of Alden Research Laboratory and Charles Coutant, a former Oak Ridge National Laboratory aquatic ecologist, with their concept: Making a Deal with the Devilfish: Biometric-Informed Screening Technology.
  • In second place, taking home $125,000 in cash and $100,000 in voucher support from PNNL, are Nicholas and Kenneth LaBry of Prometheus Innovations LLC with their concept: Fish Diversion Material & Inspection Improvements.
  • In third place, taking home $75,000 in cash and $100,000 in voucher support from PNNL, are Sterling Watson and Abe Schneider of Natel Energy with their concept: The Center Sender.

These winning teams will share $700,000 in cash and in-kind support to further develop their concepts through fall 2021.

In addition, NREL, administrator of the I AM Hydro Prize and the Groundbreaking Hydro Prize, shared new prize-related application information. Announced in June, the I AM Hydro Prize aims to strengthen hydropower by applying advanced manufacturing technologies to reduce construction costs and repair frequency, improve efficiency and energy capture, and more. The prize team extended the application period to Oct. 30.

Finally, the Groundbreaking Hydro Prize is now open for applications. The recently launched prize challenges competitors to develop new ideas to cut the costs, timelines and risks associated with hydropower development. This prize will accept applications until Jan. 15, 2021.

NREL is DOE’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy LLC.