The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) has released a $9.5 million funding opportunity to increase hydropower’s flexibility, allowing it to better balance the variability of resources such as wind and solar on the power system.

Hydropower accounts for 28.7% of total U.S. renewable electricity generation and about 6.2% of total U.S. electricity generation. It can supply electricity immediately or store it to meet real-time demand. By enhancing these abilities, this investment helps strengthen hydropower’s ability to support an electric grid with an increasing amount of variable renewable energy resources as the U.S. works to meet its clean energy goals.

The opportunity will fund projects in three topic areas:

Between four and seven awards are anticipated under the Strategies to Increase Hydropower Flexibility funding opportunity. Individual awards may vary between $750,000 and $4 million.

Topic Area 1, Hydropower Hybrids Demonstration, will support demonstrations of hybridized hydropower operations in which hydropower is co-located and co-operated with at least one other non-hydropower generation or storage resource. This topic is motivated by industry insights and previous research suggesting that synergies between hydropower and other resource characteristics can expand capabilities to provide enhanced grid services, reduce machine wear-and-tear, and mitigate environmental impacts.

Topic Area 2, Technologies to Increase Flexibility, will support testing of advanced hydropower components, which will tackle component-level constraints to a hydropower facility’s flexibility. Motivated by industry discussions and targeted technical workshops with manufacturers, this topic builds on previous research to de-risk promising new technologies so they can progress toward widespread deployment.

Topic Area 3, Operational Flexibility, supports development of operational strategies, model enhancements and related tools that can allow individual plants or coordinated sets of plants (e.g., in cascading river systems) to increase their net flexibility. Informed by previous research by academics, national laboratories and other research organizations, this topic will target projects that advance the state of the art while pursuing incorporation of these advancements into actual operational practice in the industry.

Concept papers are due by 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 18, 2024, to be eligible to submit a full application. The expected submission deadline for replies to reviewer comments is May 23, 2024. The expected date for DOE selection notifications is August 2024 and the expected timeframe for award negotiations is August to November 2024.

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