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News Release: NREL Names FAST Competition Grand Prize Winners

Innovators’ Concepts Seek to Accelerate Commissioning Times for Pumped-Storage Hydropower

Oct. 8, 2019

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) have selected the four grand prize winners of the Furthering Advancements to Shorten Time (FAST) Commissioning for Pumped-Storage Hydropower (PSH) Prize competition, part of the American-Made Challenges series.

Photo shows logo of the water prize.
The FAST Prize competition sought ideas to reduce the time to commission PSH, and included innovative PSH ideas, new layouts, creative construction management, improved construction equipment, application of advanced manufacturing, or standardization of equipment.

The grand prize winners were selected from the nine concept stage winners at a Pitch Day event—held Oct. 7 in Alexandria, Va. The finalists pitched their concepts in front of an audience of investors, industry and other experts. The winners, who will receive their share of up to $550,000 in vouchers for services and cash prizes, are:

  • Reducing PSH Excavation Duration, Cost, & Risk – Tracy Livingston, individual competitor, combined excavation equipment modifications and process optimizations to achieve up to 50% reduction in excavation timelines.
  • Accelerating PSH Construction with Steel Dams – Gordon Wittmeyer. Southwest Research Institute, presented a modular steel concept for dams that cuts cost by one-third and cuts construction schedules in half.
  • Use of Modern TBMs for Underground Pumped Storage – Doug Spaulding, Nelson Energy and Golder Associates, proposes use of tunnel boring machines for underground excavation, which can decrease excavation time by 50% and reduce costs.
  • Modular Closed-Loop Scalable Pump Storage Hydro – Tom Eldredge and Hector Medina, Liberty University, presented a modular closed-loop, scalable PSH system with a capacity range of 1-10 MW, adaptable to sites without natural bodies of water.

“The winning teams from the FAST Prize Pitch Contest have worked hard to prove the feasibility of their concepts to reduce the time, risk, and cost for commissioning PSH projects,” said Tessa Greco, the project manager leading this initiative for NREL. “We look forward to working with them over the next year to develop their concepts further and to entice industry to invest in these promising ideas to modernize PSH.”

The finalists were given three months and 50 hours of in-kind technical support from NREL, Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory representatives to develop their ideas. In addition to the technical support to the incubation stage participants, NREL has administered and executed the prize on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO).

To learn more about the prize and the initiative behind the funding, visit the competition page.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the U.S. Department of Energy by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.