Eight winners have been announced in phase one of the US Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office’s (WPTO) Hydropower Operations Optimization (H2Os) Prize, with the teams developing cutting-edge solutions for more innovative hydropower operational schemes. 

Team HydroFlex, led by Alex Farley at the University of Utah, was awarded the $3000 first prize for Phase One.

In addition, the following teams were awarded $1000 each in Phase One for their innovative ideas to expand hydropower’s role in the clean energy transition: Hydrophile led by Kirinina von Slomski; Littoral Power Systems led by David Duquett; Maroon 3 led by Sungkwang Mun at Mississippi State University; MST_Power led by Rui Bo at Missouri University of Science and Technology; Vassar Labs Inc. led by Laxmiprasad Putta; Wenyuan Tang at North Carolina State University; and Yul Young Park.

“These innovators are helping make hydropower more flexible,” said Dr. Sam Bockenhauer, lead of WPTO’s HydroWIRES Initiative. “They are helping to design a more resilient energy system, offering new ideas on how hydropower can provide flexible, on-demand power for our grid, especially as more variable renewable energy resources come online.”

The three-stage H2Os Prize challenges innovators to upgrade hydropower technology using 21st century solutions. Competitors are applying modeling, data analytics, and machine learning to create new ways for hydropower systems to plan daily grid operations and meet water management needs, such as water supply, environmental flow requirements, and flood management.

As part of WPTO’s Hydropower and Water Innovation for a Resilient Energy System (HydroWIRES) Initiative, the H2Os Prize focuses on ways hydropower can complement variable renewables, like wind and solar. 

To continue encouraging innovative solutions for complex hydropower challenges, the H2Os Prize includes two more phases – each open to new and returning competitors. Phase Two is now open for submissions and asks competitors to plan grid operations and meet water management needs while satisfying more real-world factors in hydropower operations like water flow requirements and water consumption demands. Potential competitors are encouraged to join the H2Os Prize Phase Two informational webinar on Monday, July 18 at 1 p.m. ET to learn how to compete in the prize. Phase Two will close on August 18, 2022.

The H2Os Prize welcomes applications from those familiar with hydropower, machine learning, data science, and/or optimization. Diverse, multidisciplinary teams are encouraged to apply to help solve some of the most near-term challenges in the clean energy transition by improving the performance of hydropower system operations. 

WPTO will host an R&D Deep Dive webinar on August 2, 2022, at 1 p.m. ET with the team members who created the H2Os Prize. These experts will share their reflections on Phase One and what to look forward to in Phase Two.

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 WPTOPrizes@ee.doe.gov for more information.