WPTO Launches Prize Leveraging Advanced Manufacturing for Hydropower; Announces CONCEPT Winners for Fish Protection Prize

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Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy

Water Power Technologies Office


June 30, 2020

Photograph of water and the words "Water Wire" in white.

What’s Inside: This edition of Water Wire highlights prize selections and competition updates; project selections; new resources; 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 WaterPowerTechnologiesOffice@ee.doe.gov with any inquiries or suggestions.

Estimated read time: 7.5 minutes

Prizes and Competitions

WPTO Launches Prize Leveraging Advanced Manufacturing To Transform Future of Hydropower

Photo of diablo dam with a rainbow.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the launch of the Innovations in Advanced Manufacturing for Hydropower (I AM Hydro) Prize, a new competition designed to lower costs and improve the performance of hydropower components and facilities by using advanced manufacturing.

The I AM Hydro Prize challenges innovators to leverage advancements in manufacturing and materials to dramatically reduce capital costs and increase performance of hydropower components and systems. Integrating innovative advanced manufacturing methods with hydropower can improve conventional manufacturing—enhancing design flexibility, decreasing energy consumption, lowering costs, and reducing time to market. Participants in the single-stage prize will compete for up to $250,000 in cash, which will be split among as many as 16 winners.

WPTO Announces CONCEPT Stage Winners for Fish Protection Prize

gray and orange fish swimming.

DOE, in partnership with the Bureau of Reclamation, announced winners of the first, CONCEPT, stage of the Fish Protection Prize, a competition designed to solicit creative methods to protect fish from water diversions and dam intakes. These winners will each receive vouchers for 50 hours of support from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to help them improve their concepts during the upcoming INCUBATION Stage of the prize.

CONCEPT competitors submitted their approaches either for developing new, cost-effective fish exclusion methods at water diversions and intakes or for making improvements to existing technologies. Proposals included innovations in: (1) sensory deterrents (e.g., acoustic and visual); (2) turbulence and velocity-based deterrents; (3) combination stimulus barriers; (4) diversion or intake layouts/geometry; (5) fish screen materials or coatings; and (6) fish screen cleaning methods.

WPTO and NOAA Announce Ocean Observing Prize: DEVELOP Competition Theme

Palm tree being blown by the wind.

Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) are limited by the range and duration of their power sources, which often last just a matter of days before they must be recovered, replaced, refueled, or recharged. In response, WPTO and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have focused the first Ocean Observing Prize DEVELOP Competition on recharging AUVs. Starting this fall, innovators will be challenged to integrate marine energy technologies to recharge an AUV.

Project Selections

Four New Projects Selected in Latest Technology Commercialization Fund Round

DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions announced the 2020 selections in the latest round of the Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF)—a program that transitions research and development funding to applied energy programs with the goal of advancing promising technologies that have the potential for industry-wide impact. WPTO selected four 2020 projects under the following topics:

  • Deep learning for fish identification from sonar data
  • Optimization of the autonomous sensor fish device for understanding interactions of aquatic animals
  • Optimization and commercialization of the juvenile eel/lamprey acoustic transmitter and micro-battery
  • Advanced drivetrain lubricants for enhanced reliability in harsh conditions.

New Resources

OTT Announces New COVID-19 Innovation Portal and Assistance Program

DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions has announced new resources for innovators to combat COVID-19 through its Lab Partnering Service (LPS) and the COVID-19 Technical Assistance Program (CTAP). OTT support will enable America’s innovators to readily access vital resources and connect and partner with experts at DOE’s 17 National Laboratories in the fight against the virus.

CTAP will provide targeted funding to DOE’s National Lab system to assist non-DOE entities working to combat the coronavirus pandemic. CTAP gives National Lab researchers the ability to offer short-term, limited assistance to U.S.-based entities dealing with particularly challenging technical hurdles. CTAP applicants should engage directly with the National Laboratory of their choosing through the Lab Partnering Service. To learn more, contact OTT at ctap-ott@hq.doe.gov.

Upcoming Webinars & Virtual Events

MECC 2.0

This month, WPTO announced the 2021 undergraduate and graduate-level student Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC): Powering the Blue Economy™. Building on the 2020 MECC, whose winners will be announced in July, the competition challenges competitors to unlock the power of the ocean and marine energy through the development of next-generation technologies that build resilient coastal communities and provide power at sea.

The 2021 MECC teams will be asked to:

  • Develop a market-research-supported business plan and conceptual-level technical design of a system that could be commercialized to address power needs for a chosen sector of the blue economy
  • Pitch their plan to a panel of judges and hypothetical investors
  • Design, build, and test a device to achieve energy production.

New to the 2021 competition is the build and test segment, which will allow interested teams to test their devices in a tank in Spring 2021.

Webinar Announcement: Register for Hydropower RAPID Toolkit Webinar on New Features

Tune in Thursday, July 9, from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. MDT for the Hydropower Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop (RAPID) Toolkit webinar. NREL will provide an overview on the Hydropower RAPID Toolkit project as well as recent updates, including newly released tools, data, and publications (featuring Basin-wide Approaches to Hydropower Relicensing: Case Studies and Considerations). Participants will be able to ask questions and provide input on how the hydropower community can best utilize the toolkit. 

With hydropower relicensing and new hydropower projects on the horizon across the country, the Hydropower RAPID Toolkit is an easy online tool that helps explain the licensing and permitting process. Hydropower stakeholders can use the toolkit to easily access both federal and state-level hydropower permitting information and tools, including statutes, regulations, processes guidance, manuals, examples, contacts, best practices, and other relevant information. The toolkit is also a useful resource to support staff research. Registration is required.

In Case You Missed It

TEAMER Announces First Request for Technical Support

The U.S. Testing Expertise and Access to Marine Energy Research (TEAMER) Program is now accepting applications for its first Request for Technical Support (RFTS). The application period will close July 31.

The RFTS is open to applicants seeking technology support with modeling and analysis; laboratory and bench tests; and tank, flume, tunnel, and basin tests. Open-water testing will be available in future RFTS cycles. Applicants will be required to contact approved network facilities, which are listed on the TEAMER website, to discuss their testing needs prior to applying for the RFTS.

A prerecorded webinar offering application information is available. Visit the TEAMER website for more information about the program and to sign up for its newsletter.

WPTO-Funded Researchers Examine the Effects of New Monitoring Technology

Last quarter, WPTO-funded researchers published a paper entitled, “A Vector Sensor-Based Acoustic Characterization System for Marine Renewable Energy,” in the Journal of Marine Science and Engineering. The paper describes the development of a new technology, the NoiseSpotter, which monitors sound around marine renewable energy installations.

National Labs Make Waves in Marine Energy Research and Development

WPTO’s three marine energy National Labs—NREL, PNNL, and Sandia National Laboratories—are all working toward WPTO goals to harness the immense power of the waves and understand what lies beneath them. From prizes focused on better understanding the ocean and better utilizing the ocean’s waves, to physical laboratories that test devices and monitor environmental impacts, to supporting the development of marine energy devices, our Labs are helping our nation advance the marine energy industry. Learn more about some recent lab successes. 

A Day in the Life of Marine Energy Professionals

As 15 university teams from around the world compete in DOE’s first-ever Marine Energy Collegiate Competition, we recognize those who have built careers in water power. Hear from WPTO Director Alejandro Moreno, NREL researchers Robynne Murray and Chong Vue, and naval ocean engineer Miguel Quintero on what it’s like to step into their shoes for a day.

The Entrepreneurs of the Waves to Water DESIGN Stage

Did you know that many people worldwide still lack safe drinking water? To help face this clean water crisis, the American-Made Challenges Waves to Water Prize is challenging innovators to turn to the largest water source—oceans. In the DESIGN Stage of the Waves to Water Prize, competitors had 120 days to develop technical plans and refine their wave-powered desalination designs. Seventeen winning teams were selected and awarded $800,000 total in cash prizes by EERE and WPTO for their marine energy technologies.

Learn more about eight entrepreneurial winners among the 17 teams who received awards for their reverse osmosis systems. More details will be coming soon on the other winning concepts!

National Ocean Month Recap

Earlier this month, we sent a special Ocean Edition Water Wire to highlight our recent successes in marine renewable energy. Check out the full edition on our website or follow the links below to some of the edition’s top stories: