Department of Energy Shifts Focus to Hydropower, Marine Energy

This week the Department of Energy announced up to $26.1 million in funding “to drive innovative industry-led technology solutions to advance the marine and hydrokinetics industry and increase hydropower’s ability to serve as a flexible grid resource.” The news comes during Waterpower Week in Washington, a time when the National Hydropower Association and the International Marine Renewable Energy Conference meet in the nation’s capital to discuss ways to better use energy from water.

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Daniel Simmons noted in a press release, “This opportunity is critical to advancing new water technologies that harness energy from our nation’s rivers and oceans. By supporting early-stage research and development, these next-generation water power technologies have the potential to reduce energy costs for American consumers and significantly increase the reliability of our electricity system.”

The DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) will be selecting projects to fund that increase the affordability of hydropower and marine energy, strengthen U.S. manufacturing competiveness, and build on department-wide energy storage initiatives.

On the same day, the DOE also announced selections for up to $7.5 million for innovations that “reduce cost and maximize the value of new stream-reach hydropower development and pumped storage hydropower.”

Selected groups will design plans and models for small, low head hydropower facilities that require lower capital cost and minimal environmental impact. Some groups were also selected to conduct scientific analyses on how pumped storage hydropower can be used to improve the U.S. electric grid without raising overall costs significantly.

The decision to increase focus on hydropower comes less than six months after the Government Accountability Office produced a report warning the federal government of the potential risks an electromagnetic event can have on the U.S. electric grid’s viability.

The report noted, “Threats to the reliability of the U.S. electric grid… remain a national issue because long-term or large-scale disruptions to electricity could result in significant economic disruptions, impacts to public health and safety, and threaten national security.”

Simmons noted in the aforementioned press release that a main pillar of the DOE’s efforts is to “quantify the flexible capabilities of hydropower and advance operational strategies to increase such flexibility to better serve an evolving grid.”

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