Hydropower and marine energy projects in the US could benefit from up to $26.1 million in funding recently announced by the Department of Energy (DOE).

DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Daniel Simmons announced yesterday that funding is available to drive innovative industry-led technology solutions to advance the marine and hydrokinetics (MHK) industry and increase hydropower’s ability to serve as a flexible grid resource.

The Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) will select projects that aim to increase affordability of hydropower and marine energy, strengthen US manufacturing competitiveness, and build on Department-wide energy storage initiatives to improve the capability of technologies to deliver value to the grid.   

“This opportunity is critical to advancing new water technologies that harness energy from our nation’s rivers and oceans,” said Assistant Secretary Simmons. “By supporting early-stage research and development, these next-generation water power technologies have the potential to reduce energy costs for American consumers and significantly increase the reliability of our electricity system.”

Area of Interest One: Hydropower Operational Flexibility

This area seeks to quantify the flexible capabilities of hydropower and advance operational strategies to increase such flexibility to better serve an evolving grid.

Area of Interest (AOI) 1a, Quantify Hydropower Capabilities for Operational Flexibility, seeks a comprehensive framework to catalog and account for the different types of flexibility that hydropower plants can provide.

AOI 1b, Operational Strategies for Increasing Hydropower Flexibility, seeks research and development of operational strategies that enable enhanced provision of flexibility services at individual hydropower plants or combinations of plants within the fleet.

Area of Interest Two: Low Head Hydropower and In-Stream Hydrokinetic Technologies

Low-head hydropower and hydrokinetic river current energy converter (CEC) technologies have the potential to generate a significant amount of electricity from the nation’s rivers and to support the resiliency of the US electricity system. The WPTO will provide funding in this area of interest to projects that focus on the development of two types of technologies – standard modular hydropower (SMH) and current energy converters (CEC). 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 — differences in water elevation — and generate power.

AOI 2a Modular Technologies for Low-Head Hydropower Applications will focus on the design and production of entirely new standardized, modular hydropower technologies for low-head applications (30 feet or less).

AOI 2b, Modular Technologies for River Current Energy Converter Applications focuses 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.

Area of Interest Three: Advancing Wave Energy Device Design

Marine renewable energy technologies, like wave energy converters (WEC), are still at early stages of development and require thorough design, prototyping, and testing before deployment. The WPTO will provide funding in this area of interest to projects that 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.

Area of Interest Four: Marine Energy Centers Research Infrastructure Upgrades

Advancing technologies towards commercialization requires ongoing testing at all levels of technological development. The limited availability of testing facilities with proper infrastructure equipped to create real-world wave and current environments to fully characterize their performance and reliability of prototypes is a challenge for the industry. The WPTO will provide funding in this area of interest to projects funded under this area of interest to 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.

For more information on water power research, development, and testing please visit EERE Water Power Technology Office's website.