Departments of Energy and Interior Award Nearly $17 Million for Advanced Hydropower Technologies

September 6, 2011

U.S. Department Energy Secretary Steven Chu and U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today announced nearly $17 million in funding over the next three years for research and development projects to advance hydropower technology. Sixteen projects in 11 states were selected through a competitive grant process for their ability to contribute to the development of innovative technologies that produce hydropower more efficiently, reduce costs, and increase sustainable hydropower generation. The funding will help advance the Obama Administration's goal of meeting 80% of our electricity needs from clean energy sources by 2035.

"By improving and deploying advanced hydropower technologies, we can maximize our use of this proven clean energy resource, create jobs, and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels," said Secretary Chu. "Hydropower can be used to store energy to help utilities better integrate other sources of renewable energy like wind and solar into the grid, improving our energy security and diversifying our clean energy resources."

"This administration is supporting innovative development of hydropower—one of our largest renewable energy sources—with an emphasis on reducing or eliminating environmental impacts on ecosystems," Secretary Salazar said. "These research and development dollars will help make hydropower technology more efficient and cost-effective as we continue to promote clean energy resources and build an American renewable energy economy in an environmentally responsible manner."

These projects will advance sustainable renewable energy generation from small (less than 30 megawatts) hydropower resources, enhance environmental performance of hydropower, test innovative, cost-effective technologies for hydropower development at low-head (less than a 30 foot drop) sites such as irrigation canals and non-powered dams, and spur deployment of pumped storage hydropower. By allowing utility operators to pump water up to a dam or impoundment during periods of low electricity demand and release water during times of peak electricity demand, pumped storage hydropower improves the reliability of electric grids and helps increase the use of variable renewable energy resources such as wind and solar power.

Hydropower is a source of renewable energy that can be relied upon for long-term, stable production of domestic electricity. The hydropower industry currently employs more than 300,000 workers in the United States, making it not only the oldest, but also the largest renewable power generation workforce in the nation.

The selections announced today focus on four approaches to advancing hydropower in the United States:

  • Sustainable Small Hydropower: Nine projects awarded by DOE will receive a total of $5.8 million and one project jointly funded by DOE and DOI will receive $1.5 million to research, develop, and test low-head, small hydropower technologies that can be quickly and efficiently deployed at existing non-powered dams or constructed waterways. These projects will focus on system or component model development, as well as the real-world testing of these systems.
  • Sustainable Pumped Storage Hydropower: Two projects awarded by DOE will receive a total of $6.8 million to spur deployment of advanced pumped storage hydropower in the United States. One award will conduct pre-construction, geotechnical evaluations for a pumped storage hydropower project in the early stages of development that will use advanced technology to dynamically respond to the electrical grid, enabling the integration of wind and solar energy. DOE is also supporting analyses that calculate the economic value of pumped storage hydropower.
  • Environmental Mitigation Technologies for Conventional Hydropower: Three projects awarded by DOE will receive a total of $2 million to develop innovative hydropower technologies that will enhance environmental performance while increasing electricity generation, mitigating fish and habitat impacts and enhancing downstream water quality.
  • Advanced Hydropower System Testing at a Bureau of Reclamation Facility: One project jointly funded by DOE and DOI will receive $746,000 to support system tests of innovative, low-head, small hydropower technologies at a non-powered site owned by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation. DOE's funding is targeted at research and development, whereas the Bureau of Reclamation's funding is targeted at implementation. Energy cost reductions demonstrated at this site could be replicated at other Bureau of Reclamation sites.

Read the full list of award winners.

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) works to research, test, and develop innovative technologies capable of generating renewable, environmentally responsible, and cost-effective electricity from wind and water power. Learn more about EERE's investments to develop advanced hydropower technologies.

DOI's Bureau of Reclamation is the largest U.S. wholesaler of water and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the West. Reclamation is a contemporary water management agency with a mission is to assist in meeting the increasing water demands of the West while protecting the environment and the public's investment in these structures.