DOE dispatches $28M to three new R&D funding opportunities for hydropower advancement

Published on October 25, 2022 by Chris Galford

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Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) set up three new funding opportunities for the research and development of hydropower energy, allocating $28 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. 

According to official DOE figures, hydropower presently accounts for 31.5 percent of domestic renewable electricity generation and around 6.3 percent of total U.S. energy generation. The technology truly dominates storage, given that pumped storage hydropower represents 93 percent of U.S. utility-scale energy storage. The Biden administration wants to take this further, expanding low-impact hydropower and pumped storage hydropower, creating new pumped storage hydropower facilities, and improving hydropower fleet modernization, sustainability, and environmental impacts. 

Made available through the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Exchange, the three new opportunities include: 

  1. $14.5 million to advance sustainable development of hydropower and pumped storage hydropower, as well as to support opportunities for organizations not greatly engaged with DOE’s Water Power Technologies Offices in support of R&D. 
  2. $10 million for studies that aid the licensing and eventual construction/commissioning of new pumped storage hydropower facilities to encourage long-duration storage of intermittent renewable energy.
  3. $4 million to help diverse hydropower stakeholders and find ways forward for fleet modernization, hydropower system sustainability, and associated facilities’ environmental impact. 

“Hydropower has long provided Americans with significant, reliable energy, which will now play a crucial role in achieving energy independence and protecting the climate,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said. “President Biden’s Agenda is funding critical innovations to capitalize on the promise of hydropower and ensure communities have a say in building America’s clean energy future.” 

According to the administration, hydropower will play a key role in the transition from fossil fuels and efforts to meet 100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity goals in 2035 and establish a net-zero carbon economy by 2050. Among efforts being encouraged on the development side of these opportunities will include innovative solutions to retrofit non-powered dams and developing and testing technologies to reduce challenges to pumped storage hydropower deployment.