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News Release: NREL Launches I AM Hydro Prize; Announces Fish Protection Prize CONCEPT Stage Winners

June 30, 2020

Spring was a busy season for a talented pool of hydropower prize contenders, from the launch of the Innovations in Advanced Manufacturing for Hydropower (I AM Hydro) Prize, to the announcement of first-stage winners of the Fish Protection Prize. This inventive cadre of competitors are putting their creativity to work, synthesizing solutions to tomorrow’s renewable energy challenges today.

Employing Advanced Manufacturing to Advance Hydropower

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) launched the I AM Hydro Prize, a new competition designed to transform the hydropower industry using advanced manufacturing technologies.

Funded by DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) and administered by NREL, the I AM Hydro Prize challenges innovators to leverage advancements in manufacturing and materials to dramatically reduce capital costs and increase performance of hydropower components and systems. Participants in the single-stage prize will compete for up to $250,000 in cash, which will be split among as many as 16 winners.

“While the benefits of advanced manufacturing technologies are well-known, they have yet to be fully explored for hydropower applications,” said Tessa Greco, NREL’s principal investigator for the prize. “With this prize, we aim to collect ideas that could tap the potential of advanced manufacturing to revolutionize the hydropower industry and inform future investments.”

Part of the American-Made Challenges series, the I AM Hydro Prize solicits advanced manufacturing solutions to hydropower generation in any form, including in the following categories: joining, coating, and repair; additive and composite manufacturing; casting, forming, and machining; and advanced materials.

Eligible participants will have 90 days to submit their concepts. Submissions will be judged based on their innovation, impact, and feasibility.

The competition is open to all innovators with ideas to modernize hydropower technology using advanced manufacturing innovation. Visit the prize page to learn more.

Fish Protection Prize Winners Swim from CONCEPT Stage to INCUBATION Stage

NREL also announced the winners of the CONCEPT Stage, the first phase of the Fish Protection Prize.

The Fish Protection Prize is administered by NREL in collaboration with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), jointly sponsored by the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and WPTO.

During the 90-day CONCEPT Stage, competitors submitted their approaches for either cost-effective fish exclusion at water diversions and intakes or improvements to existing technologies.

The nine CONCEPT Stage winners moved on to the INCUBATION Stage, each receiving 50 hours of support from PNNL staff to refine their winning concepts for keeping fish out of water diversions and dam intakes.

In July and August 2020, PNNL will provide the finalists with technical expertise and support in defining a research plan to be submitted in advance of the PITCH CONTEST.

“This collection of CONCEPT Stage innovations could improve the successful coexistence of water power technologies and fish,” said Tessa Greco, leading the NREL team's support of this prize as well. “We hope these creative ideas encourage safe fish habitation while minimizing environmental impact.”

Learn more about the American-Made Challenges prizes and how they are incentivizing the nation’s entrepreneurs to strengthen American leadership in energy innovation and domestic manufacturing. 

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 Energy Department by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.