Sixteen projects in 11 states were selected through a competitive grant process for their ability to contribute to the development of innovative technologies that produce hydropower more efficiently, reduce costs and increase sustainable hydropower generation.

“By improving and deploying advanced hydropower technologies, we can maximize our use of this proven clean energy resource, create jobs, and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “Hydropower can be used to store energy to help utilities better integrate other sources of renewable energy like wind and solar into the grid, improving our energy security and diversifying our clean energy resources.”

“This Administration is supporting innovative development of hydropower – one of our largest renewable energy sources – with an emphasis on reducing or eliminating environmental impacts on ecosystems,” added Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “These research and development dollars will help make hydropower technology more efficient and cost-effective as we continue to promote clean energy resources and build an American renewable energy economy in an environmentally responsible manner.”

The selections announced yesterday focus on four approaches to advancing hydropower in the US: Sustainable small hydropower (less than 30MW); Sustainable pumped storage hydropower; Environmental mitigation technologies for conventional hydropower; and advanced hydropower system testing at a US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) facility. The full list of projects is as follows:

Sustainable small hydropower

• Earth by Design was awarded $1.5M for project to develop and test a new low-head modular hydropower technology in a canal in Oregon’s North Unit Irrigation District to produce cost-competitive electricity.

• Hydro Green Energy has been awarded $1.5M for a project to develop, install and evaluate new low-head modular hydropower turbines at a constructed waterway in Austin, Texas, and also gets $300,000 for a project that will design, build, test and validate a stackable, modular low-head hydropower turbine that can be used for water projects such as existing locks and dams that aren’t currently equipped to produce hydropower

• Percheron Power will receive almost $1.5M jointly funded by the DOE and DOI to develop a new small powerhouse to utilize the increased minimum flows at Slab Creek reservoir, using a novel approach to siting. The project will show how two smaller units can generate more electricity than one larger unit.

• Near Space Systems was awarded $300,000 for a project to develop modular designs for new innovative hydropower turbines to harness energy from outlet pipes, incorporating a novel generator design.

• Natel Energy will receive $300,000 to develop and evaluate a new type of powertrain for the Schneider Linear hydroEngine, which is expected to decrease the cost of energy for low-head hydropower projects.

• New Mexico State University will receive $299,312 to design, build, test and validate two prototype devices that will harvest the maximum amount of energy from low-head dams and drops in the waterway.

• Walker Wellington was awarded $93,000 to validate the design of a direct-drive, modular turbine-generator for manmade water structures with various head and flow conditions. The project will support commercialization of the generator.

• Weisenberger will receive $56,000 to evaluate variable speed, permanent magnet generators for small low-head hydropower. The new technology could increase efficiency, allowing generators to obtain more energy from the same amount of water.

Sustainable pumped storage hydropower

• Sacramento Municipal Utility District will receive $4.96M for a project that will reduce risk and subsequent costs by conducting geotechnical investigations of the mountain where the Iowa Hill Pumped Storage project’s water conveyance and powerhouse will be located, and by analyzing the value of energy and ancillary services it will provide. Both tasks are critical in reducing financial uncertainty of the 400MW pumped storage project that will support integration of variable renewable energy resources such as wind and solar in California.

• Argonne National Laboratory was awarded $1.875M for a project to model, simulate and analyze operations of an advanced pumped storage hydropower facility in the Western Electricity Coordinating Council. The project will provide a comprehensive study of the technical and market operations, economics, and contribution to power system stability of pumped storage hydropower.

Environmental mitigation technologies for conventional hydropower

electric-power-research-institute (epri) will receive $1.5M to deploy and test the fish-friendly Alden Turbine in New York to generate electricity while allowing safe fish passage. The project proposes a three-year installation and test plan to verify model test data and fish survival predictions.

• Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will receive $299,906 to re-design the Sensor Fish, a data collection device that measures movement, acceleration, rotation, and pressure changes on the device as it passes through a hydropower turbine, providing more accurate information on the forces that a fish may encounter. The new device, which is expected to be smaller and cheaper than previous devices, could be deployed through a wide range of model and prototype turbine testing, allowing for improved designs safer for fish passage.

• Regents of the University of Minnesota has been awarded $250,000 for a project that will develop a modeling tool to advance the development and implementation of aerating turbines at hydropower facilities to improve water quality. The project will combine a physical test bed with new analytical models for investigating how hydropower turbine blade shape and operation affect oxygen transfer and aeration.

Advanced hydropower system testing at a Bureau of Reclamation facility

• Natel Energy has been awarded $746,042 for a project to deploy and test a scaled-up version of the modular Schneider Linear hydroEngine at a Bureau of Reclamation facility in Oregon, validating the commercial performance and economic feasibility of the device in low-head constructed waterway.