DOE Funding Available: Innovative Design Concepts for Standard Modular Hydropower and Pumped Storage Hydropower

Source:  U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, August 8, 2018.

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) announced up to $9 million for innovations that reduce cost and maximize the value of new stream-reach hydropower development and pumped storage hydropower (PSH). WPTO will fund research to develop new design concepts and associated modeling and analysis for standard modular hydropower (SMH) and PSH.

Today’s electricity system is changing rapidly, creating new opportunities for hydropower and pumped storage to contribute to system resilience, reliability, and affordability. DOE’s Hydropower Vision report identified 1.7 GW of hydropower potential in undeveloped sites and waterways, with an additional 15 GW enabled by the emergence of innovative—even transformational—technologies and designs to reduce costs and meet environmental performance objectives. To facilitate development of new stream-reach resources, innovation in standardization, modularity, and environmental compatibility is required. In addition, 43 PSH plants currently provide over 95% of utility-scale electricity storage in the United States. To better understand the capabilities and value of existing and potentially new PSH in the evolving electricity system, research into new technology design and evaluation, optimization, and modeling tools is needed.

To address these gaps, this funding opportunity solicits applications in the following topic areas:

Topic Area 1: Innovative Design Concepts for Low-head Hydropower

The first topic area seeks to stimulate innovative designs for small, low-head hydropower facilities capable of lowering the capital costs and reducing the environmental impacts of development at new stream-reaches. DOE will use competitive awards to engage the private sector in the practical engineering application of standardization and modularity—which makes use of separate, similar components that can be constructed off-site then easily integrated into new or existing sites and scaled to greater capacities—and new innovations for environmental compatibility. Applicants will identify a preliminary site and propose a detailed work plan to develop, validate, and refine a facility design capable of generating up to 10 MW and being replicable at multiple sites. Development of modular facility designs will provide a critical benchmark for the technical, economic, and environmental feasibility of transformative new technologies and structures.

Topic Area 2: New Use Cases for Pumped Storage Hydropower

This topic area emphasizes an increase in value rather than a reduction in levelized costs of PSH systems. Consistent with DOE’s Beyond Batteries initiative—which drives technology beyond cost reductions toward improved performance and enhanced provision of services to the grid—DOE seeks advances in two areas: (1) disruptive ideas for configurations, layouts, and technical designs that address critical barriers to deployment of pumped storage technologies (e.g., time to commissioning); and (2) analyses and modeling enhancements that would collectively advance an understanding of PSH capabilities in electric system optimization or optimization of other grid assets. Applicants will be expected to propose innovative technology concepts or enhanced modeling and analysis capabilities that focus on the new and potentially different roles that pumped storage can play in the evolving electricity system.

Hydropower and pumped storage are key components to strengthening the American economy and energy security. WPTO is committed to lowering the cost and build time of hydropower and pumped storage systems while reducing environmental impacts and permitting timelines, further increasing their ability to provide essential flexibility and reliability services our grid needs now and in the future. For more on WPTO, visit its website here.