DOE ups HydroNEXT funding for pumped-storage, conventional hydroelectric power technologies

U.S. Department of Energy EERE Logo

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $9.8 million in funding toward pumped-storage and hydroelectric power conversion technologies as part of its HydroNEXT program.

The initiative is being administered by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and seeks make hydro development easier through the development of modular, cost-efficient innovations.

Selected for the pumped-storage sector were:

  • The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, Colo.): NREL will couple a Ternary pumped-storage unit with “sophisticated” transmission monitoring and control equipment, making the project a proof-of-concept for improving pumped-storage components’ integration into other renewables projects;
  • Obermeyer Hydro Accessories Inc. (Wellington, Colo.): Obermeyer is developing reversible pump turbines with submersible permanent magnet motor generators. DOE said the scalability and versatility of this design makes it applicable for a number of storage projects; and
  • Shell Energy North America (Houston): Shell is investigating the feasibility of building a 5 MW closed-loop project that will include an artificial upper reservoir, a floating barge housing generating equipment, and a submerged, bag-like lower reservoir.

Receiving funding to advance technologies for adding generation to non-powered dams were:

  • Canyon Hydro (Deming, Wash.): Canyon will work to further optimize the design of traditional Archimedes screws for use in low-head high-flow sites, while also looking to reduce manufacturing and transportation costs through modular designs;
  • Natel Energy, Inc. (Alameda, Calif.): Natel will test a lab-scale version of its “hydroEngine” turbine, which it describes as a “linear Pelton”; and
  • Rickly Hydrological Co. (Columbus, Ohio): Rickly will design and lab-test powertrain, modular infrastructure components and design software designed to simplify small hydro development at non-powered dams.

“The non-powered dam technology projects will help tap this resource by supporting the development of low-head, modular designs, which use separate, similar components that can be easily integrated and scaled to greater capacities,” EERE said, noting that only 3% of all dam infrastructure in the U.S. generates power. “Modular designs can reduce infrastructure and construction costs and operate flexibly over a range of conditions at existing dams.”

The HydroNEXT plan was unveiled by DOE concurrently with its Hydropower Vision plan at HydroVision International 2016.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for

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