DOE selects companies to receive $24.9 million to advance hydropower technologies


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected projects to receive up to $24.9 million to drive innovative, industry-led technology solutions to advance the marine and hydrokinetics industry and increase hydropower’s ability to serve as a flexible grid resource.

Innovative technologies have the potential to increase the affordability of hydropower and marine energy, DOE says. Selected projects will also strengthen U.S. manufacturing competitiveness and build on department-wide initiatives to improve the capability of technologies to deliver value to the grid.

Projects were selected across four areas of interest –Hydropower Operational Flexibility, Low-Head Hydropower and In-Stream Hydrokinetic Technologies, Advancing Wave Energy Device Design, and Marine Energy Centers Research Infrastructure Upgrades.

“Hydropower is a valuable national resource and these technologies will make it an even more competitive clean energy option to invest in the Blue Economy,” said Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. “These awards are another example of this Administration reaffirming its commitment to an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy to the benefit of the entire nation.”

Hydropower Operational Flexibility

Projects awarded will quantify the flexible capabilities of hydropower and advance operational strategies to increase such flexibility to better serve an evolving grid.

Quantify Hydropower Capabilities for Operational Flexibility

  • Electric Power Research Institute, Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., will develop a methodology and framework for calculating the flexibility hydropower assets can provide, demonstrate the validity of the approaches and the viability of comprehensive application across the fleet, and establish a platform for future flexibility assessments.

Operational Strategies for Increasing Hydropower Flexibility

  • General Electric Company, GE Research of Niskayuna, N.Y., will analyze, model and simulate operation of low-head Francis turbines to demonstrate their flexibility potential. The analysis will be used to provide recommendations for extending the turbine operating range further into partial load operation through operational strategies that can be applied in similar plants across the fleet.
  • University of California, Irvine will develop a mathematical representation of flexible hydropower operation that accommodates various constraints and captures the underlying uncertainty from inflows and net load. The project aims to identify hidden capabilities for flexible operation that can contribute to system reliability and resilience.
  • Stevens Institute of Technology of Hoboken, N.J., will develop advanced modeling and optimization approaches to enable cascading hydroelectric systems to provide a suite of enhanced operational flexibilities. This project will focus on Portland General Electric’s system, and results will be applicable to other cascading systems. 

Low-Head Hydropower and In-Stream Hydrokinetic Technologies

Projects awarded will focus on the development of standard modular hydropower (SMH) and current energy converters (CECs). CEC technologies extract kinetic energy from rivers without the need for a dam or diversion, whereas SMH technologies use dams or other structures with turbines to create head and generate power.

Modular Technologies for Low-Head Hydropower Applications will focus on the design and production of new standardized, modular technologies for low-head (30 feet or less) hydropower applications that can balance performance, economics and environmental sustainability.

  • Percheron Power, LLC of Kennewick, Wash., will develop a helical fish passage module, based on Archimedes’ screw principles, with the ability to pass fish species both upstream and downstream of a low-head hydropower plant. Components will be manufactured in the U.S. using advanced manufacturing methods.
  • Natel Energy, Inc. of Alameda, Calif., will advance the design of a fish-friendly, horizontal axial-flow, low-head generation module by leveraging industry approaches and technologies to minimize performance and cost risks. Its runner hydraulic design has high fish passage survival rates without compromising efficiency, while reducing overall installation costs.
  • Littoral Power Systems, Inc. of New Bedford, Mass., will partner with Whooshh Innovations to develop a fish passage module that can be used to accommodate multiple species simultaneously and be easily integrated into Littoral’s SMH system. The ZAO prefabricated modular hydropower system is a kit of parts that can be flexibly configured for small, low-head hydropower projects.
  • University of Minnesota of Minneapolis, Minn., will advance the design of a sediment passage module based on “hydrosuction,” which uses siphon flow to continually pass sediment through the dam structure. This system will take advantage of advanced manufacturing, materials, and fabrication and easily integrate with other SMH modules at low-head sites.

Modular Technologies for River Current Energy Converter Applicationswill focus on developing and testing CEC systems that can be efficiently deployed and retrieved without the need for significant port or on-site infrastructure and specialized vessels.

  • Ocean Renewable Power Company of Portland, Maine, will develop and demonstrate a modular system where each turbine-generator unit is installed as a standalone unit with the option for attaching adjacent modules to form horizontal or vertical arrays. The modules can be used to fit specific river geometries and other river constraints.
  • ABB Inc. of Cary, N.C., will use a pair of vertical cycloidal rotor modules with independent blade control to deliver a 30-kW power generation system. The rotor can propel and maneuver the floating platform at the deployment location.
  • Purdue University of West Lafayette, Ind., will design a cross-flow cycloidal turbine in individual modules that can be connected hydraulically and use a single generator. The 20-kW project’s modular design can also be stacked to increase power output.

Advancing Wave Energy Device Design

Projects awarded will drive performance improvements in WEC devices in preparation for open-water testing, where wave energy has the greatest energy capture potential and lowest unit costs.

  • Columbia Power Technologies, Inc. of Charlottesville, Va., will develop a standards-compliant, fabrication-ready design of its WEC. Using composite materials to reduce capital expenditures and a permanent magnet generator to maximize efficiency, the project will design a scaled-up version of the existing Water Power Technologies Office-funded device that is set for testing at Hawaii’s Wave Energy Test Site.
  • CalWave Power Technologies, Inc. of Berkeley, Calif., will design the next generation of its submerged pressure differential WEC. Using depth control and variable geometry for load shedding, the WEC will be capable of a capacity of 45 kW.
  • IDOM, Inc. of Minneapolis, Minn., will build the next generation of its oscillating water column device, previously tested off the coast of Spain. The team will develop a more cost-competitive device by using advanced controls, improved structural design, and improved turbine design.
  • Stevens Institute of Technology of Hoboken, N.J., will design a 100-kW annual average electrical power WEC that uses two surge devices mounted on a single buoyant platform. The devices will be controlled by an integrated control system to maximize power production based on wave conditions.

Marine Energy Centers Research Infrastructure Upgrades

Projects awarded will upgrade necessary infrastructure at existing National Marine Renewable Energy Centers (NMRECs) to enable broader industry access and reduce technical barriers to incubating advanced marine and hydrokinetic technologies.

  • The University of Washington in Seattle will ensure that a coordinated effort is made to enhance marine energy testing and address the highest priority testing infrastructure upgrades required by industry.


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