The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) has announced it is launching the Hydropower Operations Optimization (H2Os) Prize – a new competition which offers a combined cash prize pool of up to $75,000 to encourage the development of new solutions that can help advance hydropower’s contribution to the grid.

Scheduled to open for submissions in April, the the H2Os Prize encourages diverse, multidisciplinary teams to help solve some of the most near-term challenges in the clean energy transition by improving the performance of hydropower system operations. 

It challenges innovators to employ modeling, data analytics, and machine learning to create new ways for hydropower systems to coordinate with existing grid scheduling practices and meet water management needs, such as water supply, environmental flow requirements, and flood management. The prize can help develop innovative technology solutions that focus on hydropower’s complementary role as an integrator of variable renewables, like wind and solar, and best leverage hydropower’s benefits for planning daily grid operations.

“By tapping into all of hydropower’s benefits, we can help build flexible, reliable, and sustainable energy infrastructure,” said WPTO Director Jennifer Garson. “Hydropower’s evolving role will be crucial to modernizing the grid and H2Os Prize participants can help unlock hydropower’s potential to support the grid while respecting environmental and water system needs.”

The prize has been launched as part of WPTO’s Hydropower and Water Innovation for a Resilient Energy System (HydroWIRES) Initiative, which seeks to understand, enable, and improve hydropower’s contributions to reliability, resilience, and integration in the rapidly evolving US electricity system.

Through the competition, WPTO seeks solutions to address key hydropower technology development goals:

  • Hydropower benefits: Economic and environmental benefits resulting from optimal coordination of hydropower systems based on feasible and just hydropower output and electricity market energy and ancillary prices.
  • Water operations feasibility: Hydropower scheduling solutions that respect water management operations and constraints.      
  • Novel, scalable, and broadly applicable: Unique, innovative, and flexible solutions that apply to a variety of facilities within a range of modeling and institutional workflows.

When the prize opens to submissions, DOE will welcome applications from those familiar with hydropower, machine learning, data science, and/or optimization.

The H2Os Prize is funded by WPTO and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in partnership with RTI International. Learn more about participating in the prize, and contact for more information.