The Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) of the US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the selection of 10 technical assistance projects, worth $4.3 million, through the HydroWIRES Initiative. The primary objective of these projects is to provide support to the hydropower community, enabling well-informed decision-making while maximizing the broader benefits for the electricity grid.

Hydropower contributes approximately 28.7% of total US renewable electricity generation and 6.2% of the overall US electricity generation. Furthermore, pumped storage hydropower (PSH) accounts for 93% of utility-scale energy storage in the US as of 2021. As the nation's power grid undergoes a transformative shift towards integrating variable renewable energy sources like solar power and wind energy, the adaptability of hydropower becomes paramount to ensure grid reliability and stability.

Each of the 10 selected projects will receive assistance ranging from $100,000 to $1 million, delivered by technical assistance teams consisting of subject-matter experts from prestigious DOE national laboratories, including Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne), Idaho National Laboratory (INL), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

The projects are divided among three main topic areas as follows:

Topic: Pumped Storage Hydropower Valuation Tool Baseline Analyses, Interpretation, or Market Applications

Under this topic, applicants will receive assistance with using the PSH Valuation Tool (PSHVT). The assistance can involve how to properly gather the information needed for accurate use of the tool, how to run analyses under various market scenarios, and/or interpreting valuation results in the context of financing considerations and other market applications.

  • MODULAR SCALABLE HYDROPOWER COMPONENTS FOR NON-POWERED DAMS: Auburn University will receive technical assistance from Argonne and PNNL to evaluate the financial viability of converting small- to medium-height nonpowered dams into advanced hydropower and PSH facilities. This evaluation will assess a range of dam, reservoir, and power system characteristics using the PSHVT.
  • THE QUIDNET GEOMECHANICAL PUMPED STORAGE SYSTEM: Quidnet Energy, Inc. will receive comprehensive financial, environmental, and equity analysis assistance from Argonne and PNNL for their geomechanical pumped storage system. This innovative energy storage concept involves pumping water between rock layers to be kept under pressure until released through a hydroelectric turbine.
  • DEGRAY AND CLARENCE D. CANNON PUMP-BACK TECHNOLOGY ALTERNATIVES STUDY: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will receive technical assistance from Argonne and PNNL to quantify the benefits associated with pump-back storage capabilities. This study focuses on the DeGray and Clarence D. Cannon powerhouses, which were designed with pump-back operation that was never utilized. The assessment aims to inform the USACE and the Power Marketing Administrations about the value of repairs and the benefits of pumped storage hydropower (PSH).

Topic: PSH Valuation Custom Analyses, Modeling, Interpretation, or Market Applications

Under this topic, applicants will receive assistance from the national labs with additional custom analyses, modeling, interpretation, or market applications that are beyond the scope of the PSHVT and require additional national lab capabilities.

  • IMPROVING PUMPED STORAGE VALUATION FOR COMPLEX VERTICAL UTILITIES: The Tennessee Valley Authority will collaborate with Argonne, NREL, and PNNL to enhance current PSH valuation practices. This project will utilize DOE lab tools, expertise in grid modeling, and water modeling to assist utilities in valuing and justifying pumped storage hydropower (PSH) as a means to integrate renewables and facilitate decarbonization.
  • SALINA PUMPED STORAGE HYDRO PLANT FACILITIES STUDY: The Grand River Dam Authority will receive technical assistance from Argonne and INL to evaluate batteries and modern technological upgrades for the Salina Pumped Storage Hydro Plant. The study aims to determine grid benefits, return on investment, and the best approach to meet electricity grid needs as six hydropower units at the plant near the end of their useful life.
  • PUMP-BACK STORAGE HYDROPOWER INCORPORATION INTO EXISTING USACE FACILITIES: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will collaborate with PNNL and ORNL to assess the conversion of conventional hydropower facilities into pump-back capable storage facilities. This project will explore opportunities to equip existing USACE facilities with pump-back storage capabilities, considering the potential benefits of pumped storage hydropower (PSH).

Open Topic

Under this topic, applicants will receive assistance with other decision-making questions regarding hydropower’s role in the evolving grid that are not addressed above and is not limited to solely PSH or the PSHVT.

  • SAN LUIS RESERVOIR ENERGY STORAGE PROJECT: BENEFIT-COST ANALYSIS OF RETROFITTING FOR IMPROVED FLEXIBILITY: The Power & Water Resources Pooling Authority will collaborate with PNNL and Argonne to determine the value of retrofitting the Gianelli powerhouse in California as a pumped storage hydropower (PSH) facility. The project aims to assess if operating the facility as a PSH facility, with upgrades like replacing old turbines and adding a hybrid battery, will improve revenues and offset the cost of modifications.
  • ADDRESSING CRITICAL CHALLENGES OF COAL MINES FOR UNDERGROUND PUMPED STORAGE HYDROPOWER USING NUMERICAL CALCULATIONS: Rye Development will receive technical assistance from ORNL to address technical challenges associated with water quality and structural integrity in using former coal mines for underground pumped storagehydropower. The project will investigate the impacts of minerals, metal particles, and chemical substances in water flow on hydraulic equipment and assess the overall structural integrity of hydraulic equipment in former coal mines.
  • VALUE OF HYBRIDIZATION UNDER VARIOUS POWER PURCHASE AGREEMENT STRUCTURES: Natel will collaborate with INL and Argonne to assess the economic return and viability of adding batteries to four of its hydropower plants. The project will also explore how power purchase agreement structures can affect the value of hybridized hydropower facilities, providing valuable insights into the potential benefits and considerations of hybridization.
  • COORDINATION OF THE MID-COLUMBIA HYDROPOWER PROJECTS: The Grant County Public Utility District will work with NREL to develop and apply a coordinated modeling framework for the mid-Columbia hydropower system. With seven powered dams operated by five independent hydropower operators, the project aims to quantify the value of coordination among these systems, identify areas where value accrues, and improve market operation software.