Earth Day at WPTO: Newly Released Peer Review Report, Deadlines Approaching for Marine Energy FOA & Fish Protection Prize

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Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy

Water Power Technologies Office


April 22, 2020

April Water Wire

What’s Inside: This edition of Water Wire highlights prize selections and competition updates, new products, upcoming webinars and virtual events, and additional hot topics for the month.

Continue to follow the Water Wire and emails from WPTO for the latest news and updates from the office. Reach out to with any inquiries or suggestions.

Estimated Read Time: 8 minutes and 2 seconds

Prizes and Competitions

Last Call for Applications: Fish Protection Prize To Close April 24

Fish protection prize logo.

The Fish Protection Prize is catalyzing new solutions, designs, and strategies to protect fish from water infrastructure, such as water diversions and pipes, and intakes at hydropower dams. We’re seeking innovative ideas to advance fish exclusion technology.  

Two days remain to submit your best ideas for keeping fish out of harm’s way. The Fish Protection Prize Concept Stage will close on Friday, April 24. Check out the rules webinar and apply today.

Seizing the Power of the Sea: Ocean Observing Prize Winners Announced

Ocean observing logo.

In early April, DOE, in partnership with NOAA, announced the 11 winners of the DISCOVER Competition of the Powering the Blue EconomyTM: Ocean Observing Prize. Ten winning teams received $10,000 each, and the grand prize winner, CalWave Power Technologies Inc., received $25,000.

The competition is designed to inspire innovators to integrate marine renewable energy with ocean observation platforms, ultimately revolutionizing our capability to collect the data needed to understand, map, and monitor the ocean. The subsequent DEVELOP Competition will offer up to $3 million in prizes for those who successfully design, build, and test their systems. To learn more, visit the prize page.

Newly Released Products

Sandia Releases Wave Energy Converter Design Optimization Tool

Sandia National Laboratories has developed an open-source MATLAB Toolbox for performing wave energy converter (WEC) design optimization studies. By applying a pseudo-spectral solution method, the “WecOptTool” can perform design optimization studies while accounting for moments where control is constrained. The initial release of the WecOptTool allows the user to perform design optimization studies on the Reference Model 3 point absorber, an open source WEC design used to benchmark marine energy technology performance and costs. Subsequent releases will provide a generalized framework that enables users to consider other types of WECs.

2019 Peer Review Report Released

Illustrated cover for the WPTO 2019 peer review report.

WPTO hosted its biennial Peer Review October 8–10, 2019, in Alexandria, Virginia, where reviewers evaluated DOE-funded projects for their contributions to the mission and goals of the office, assessed progress made against stated objectives, and assessed the office’s overall management and performance. The review covered 77 individual WPTO-funded projects—41 projects funded by the MHK Program and 36 by the Hydropower Program.

This was the first office-wide review that considered WPTO as an independent office within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The report presents the results from the three-day review and shares WPTO’s response to reviewers’ comments and how the MHK and Hydropower programs intend to address this feedback.

Triple Partnership Enables Improved Hydroelectric and Environmental Performance at High Rock Dam

In 2019, Eagle Creek Renewable Energy (formerly Cube Hydro), General Electric (GE), and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) collaborated to deploy GE’s new advanced aerating turbine at Eagle Creek’s High Rock hydropower facility on the Yadkin River in North Carolina. The new turbine is designed to increase dissolved oxygen in the water, which is important for the growth and survival of many fish and aquatic species. PNNL supported the effort by providing its autonomous water quality monitoring system to collect data on dissolved oxygen both upstream and downstream of the facility. Check out the project overview video to learn more.

HydroWIRES Initiative Publishes Report on Open- vs. Closed-Loop Pumped Storage Configurations

WPTO’s HydroWIRES Initiative released a new report comparing open-loop pumped storage hydropower (PSH), where there is an ongoing hydrologic connection to a natural body of water, to closed-loop PSH, where the reservoirs are not connected to an outside body of water. The report provides a detailed analysis of the potential environmental effects of both configurations; describes how existing projects in other countries are avoiding, minimizing, or mitigating these effects; and examines how proposed U.S. projects will address them. Read more.

Upcoming Webinars & Virtual Events

The Water Power 411: Join the Semiannual Stakeholder Webinar on May 12

WPTO’s third semiannual stakeholder webinar will be held on Tuesday, May 12, from 1–2:30 p.m. ET. Led by WPTO Director Alejandro Moreno, the webinar will also feature EERE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable Power David Solan, Marine and Hydrokinetics Program Manager Tim Ramsey, Hydropower Program Manager Tim Welch, and Strategy and Analysis Program Manager Hoyt Battey. Program representatives will highlight recent announcements and publications, share project updates, and discuss upcoming priorities. The presentation will close with Q&A.

This webinar is one of WPTO’s many efforts to improve transparency and engagement with the diverse groups of water power science and research stakeholders. Email questions ahead of the webinar to

Register for the webinar.


PNNL, in partnership with WPTO, will present a webinar on DOE's HydroPASSAGE project and tools offered for improving downstream fish passage conditions through turbines and other hydropower structures. The webinar, scheduled for Tuesday, May 19, at 3 p.m. ET, will provide insight on the state-of-the-art HydroPASSAGE toolsets for evaluating the impacts of different hydropower turbine designs and operation schemes for fish species of concern. The PNNL-developed tools include the Hydropower Biological Evaluation Toolset (HBET), Biological Performance Assessment (BioPA) Toolset, and Sensor Fish.

Register for the webinar.

Ask a PNNL Scientist Anything about the Blue Economy on May 20

PNNL coastal scientists and engineers will host a Reddit Ask Me Anything panel on the blue economy Wednesday, May 20, at 3 p.m. ET. The panel will include Angela Becker-Dippmann, Simon Geerlofs, David Hume, Andrea Copping, and Rob Cavagnaro.

During the two-hour event, the panel will discuss how science and technology are advancing the future of the blue economy and answer questions from the online community. Discussion will include how PNNL’s marine research and unique facilities support energy innovation across the blue economy, such as marine renewable energy, autonomous ocean vehicles, commercial vessels and ports, and other blue economy technology areas.

Scientists and engineers at PNNL’s Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim, Washington, have expertise in exciting high-growth marine technologies, including wave and tidal energy, offshore wind, environmental monitoring instruments, and sustainable hydrogen and biofuel production from the ocean.

In Case You Missed It

Marine Energy FOA Webinar

On March 31, WPTO released a $22 million funding opportunity announcement (FOA) entitled, “Marine Energy Foundational Research and Testing Infrastructure,” to leverage the expertise and intellectual capital of non-federal research institutions by supporting foundational research and development and expanded testing capacity to advance the marine energy industry.

To provide information on the FOA to potential applicants, WPTO posted a pre-recorded informational webinar on EERE Exchange. WPTO described the FOA in detail and provided information on who is eligible to apply, what an application needs to include, cost share and other requirements, how to ask questions, and how applications will be selected for funding. Participation in the webinar was voluntary, and there are no advantages or disadvantages to the application evaluation process with respect to participating in or viewing the webinar.

Daniel Simmons Chats with IDA Global Connections Magazine

Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Daniel R Simmons was featured in the Spring 2020 issue of Global Connections, the publication of the International Desalination Association (IDA). Assistant Secretary Simmons spoke with the IDA Secretary General about DOE funding opportunities and prizes that support the advancement of desalination technologies, including WPTO’s Waves to Water Prize, the first prize launched under the Water Security Grand Challenge. Additionally, Simmons discussed key water issues DOE is committed to solving, including advancing technology and innovation to meet the global need for safe, secure, and affordable water.

ARPA-E Announced $38M for Hydrokinetic Turbine R&D

The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced up to $38 million in funding for a new program, Submarine Hydrokinetic And Riverine Kilo-megawatt Systems (SHARKS). The program seeks to design economically attractive hydrokinetic turbines (HKT) for tidal and riverine currents. The SHARKS program will develop HKT system designs while encouraging the application of Control Co-Design, Co-Design, and Designing-for-OpEx methodologies. To apply for funding, visit ARPA-E eXCHANGE.

A New Way To Deliver Power Across Alaska

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is partnering with PNNL, Ocean Renewable Power Company, and TerraSond Limited on a DOE-funded Cook Inlet project in Alaska, building on earlier tidal studies conducted by these partners and the University of Washington in Washington State’s Puget Sound and Maine's Western Passage. NREL researchers are working with industry, tribal, government, and National Laboratory partners to more effectively harness Alaska’s vast marine energy resources. NREL-led assessments are helping the remote tribal village of Igiugig identify self-sustaining microgrid options, while the team’s resource characterization work in Cook Inlet has the potential to deliver power to the grid for distribution across the state.

New POET Webinar Series

The Pacific Ocean Energy Trust (POET), network director for the U.S. Testing Expertise and Access for Marine Energy Research (TEAMER) Program, launched a series of informational webinars this month. These webinars will feature experts from various fields who will share their knowledge and insights, talk with participants, and help move the conversation along as floating offshore wind and marine renewable energy become established in a responsible manner. The first webinar, “The Science of Offshore Renewable Energy Effects–What Do We Know and What Do We Still Need to Learn?”, featured speakers from PNNL’s Coastal Division.

If you are interested in presenting your own topics via this webinar series, or you would like to suggest topics for discussion, please reach out to POET.

Tune In: Direct Current Podcast on COVID-19

In this Direct Current podcast episode, Dr. Chris Fall, director of DOE’s Office of Science, discusses the Department’s response to COVID-19. Secretary Brouillette has tasked Dr. Fall with coordinating efforts across the Department and its 17 National Labs, where scientists are hard at work performing critical research to help us better understand the virus and limit its spread.

Input Needed: Science & Technology Response to COVID-19

DOE encourages researchers to consider scientific questions that underpin COVID-19 response and that the research community could answer using DOE user facilities, computational resources, and enabling infrastructure. Please email research questions to More information can be found in the March 12 letter from Dr. Chris Fall, director of DOE’s Office of Science, and on DOE’s COVID-19 Hub.

DOE is acting rapidly to leverage and, when appropriate, provide prioritized access to the full range of its facilities to support the national and international effort to address COVID-19.