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Biden-Harris Administration Invests More Than $13 Million to Enhance Continued Deployment of Hydropower

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — In support of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced today more than $13 million for seven research and development projects focused on advancing hydropower as a critical source of clean energy. The funding, provided by the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will advance technologies to generate power at dams that currently do not and accelerate the expansion of pumped storage hydropower (PSH). Water power, with existing infrastructure across the United States and thousands of years of history around the world, is an essential component in helping achieve the Biden-Harris Administration’s ambitious climate goals. 

“For more than a century, Americans have harnessed the power of water to electrify our communities, and it’s a critical renewable energy source that will help us reach our climate goals,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “President Biden’s Investing in America agenda will help to expand the use of hydropower, increasing access to affordable, clean power and creating good-paying jobs.”

The funding supports organizations to accelerate hydropower research and development for non-powered dam and PSH technologies to make them more affordable, environmentally responsible, and deployable. Of the more than 90,000 dams in the United States, less than 3% produce power. These dams serve a range of purposes from flood control and irrigation to water storage and recreation and represent the potential to add thousands of megawatts of clean energy to the grid. PSH currently accounts for 93% of U.S. utility-scale energy storage and will be a key tool to balance a grid with an increasing amount of variable resources such as wind and solar.

The seven selected projects focus on:

Developing technologies to retrofit non-powered dams with environmentally sustainable power-generating infrastructure.

  • Low-Impact Hydropower Assessment (Keokuk, Iowa): The Electric Power Research Institute (based in Palo Alto, California) will test two models of the Amjet Turbine System, a turbine/generator system designed to add power-generating infrastructure to non-powered dams, at the Keokuk Energy Center, a run-of-river project. (Award amount: $2,306,949)
  • Spillway Turbine (Pasco, Washington): Emrgy (based in Atlanta, Georgia) will develop a turbine to generate hydropower at non-powered dams where the water drop is less than 30 feet or in low-flow conduits, such as existing irrigation canals. The technology’s design is such that no modifications to a facility’s existing infrastructure would be necessary. The company will demonstrate this technology in the South Columbia Basin. (Award amount: $1,600,308)

Advancing and developing technologies that could accelerate the deployment of PSH.

  • Accelerating the Deployment of PSH Through the Fast Conversion of Existing Conventional Hydropower (Salem, Alabama): Georgia Power Co. (based in Atlanta, Georgia) will accelerate the development and deployment of PSH facilities across the United States by developing a utility-scale solution to retrofit traditional hydropower facilities to serve as PSH facilities. The company will demonstrate this approach in the Bartlett’s Ferry Hydropower Facility in Salem, Alabama. (Award amount: $2,880,191)
  • Low Cost, 3D Concrete Printed, Modular, Marine Pumped Hydroelectric Storage System (San Pedro, California): RCAM Technologies (based in Boulder, Colorado) will help develop an innovative offshore PSH technology. It will advance RCAM Technologies’ Marine Pumped Hydroelectric (MPH) Storage System toward commercialization by funding the device through design, fabrication, and deepwater ocean testing off the Port of Los Angeles. MPH works by storing pressurized seawater in concrete spheres on the sea floor and releasing that water to spin a turbine and generate electricity. By building PSH offshore, MPH reduces some of the siting and permitting challenges that have hindered the growth of PSH. (Award amount: $4,000,000)
  • Energy Storage Systems for Overpressure Environments (East Texas): Quidnet Energy Inc. (based in Houston, Texas) will demonstrate the feasibility of a novel PSH technology that stores pressurized water underground. This low-cost form of long-duration electricity storage uses existing wellbores, which offers an opportunity to repurpose legacy oil and gas assets. (Award amount: $2,084,165) 

Hydropower research and development by emerging organizations not extensively engaged with DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office.

  • Novel Approach to Deploying Low-Head Turbines at Drops and Diversions (Sagle, Idaho): Drops for Watts will develop a low-impact, modular system to generate hydropower from existing irrigation infrastructure. This system will be designed to have minimal impact on existing infrastructure and will not require any additional excavation. (Award amount: $243,540)
  • Deployment of Digital Twins and Advanced Instrumentation to Identify Looseness Between Rotor Spider Arms and Rim Attachment in Hydro Turbines (Atlanta, Georgia): Turbine Logic will use a digital twin, a virtual representation of existing instrumentation, to better predict common maintenance needs in hydropower turbines. This will help improve monitoring and reliability of hydropower facilities. (Award amount: $199,435)

These projects were selected as part of the Water Power Technologies Office’s Innovative Technologies to Enable Low-Impact Hydropower and Pumped Storage Hydropower Growth funding opportunity. Learn more about this and other water power funding opportunities.

Selection for award negotiations is not a commitment by DOE to issue an award or provide funding. Before funding is issued, DOE and the applicants will undergo a negotiation process, and DOE may cancel negotiations and rescind the selection for any reason during that time.

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