HydroWIRES Initiative

Graphic of the HydroWires logo.

NREL supports the U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Technologies Office's HydroWIRES (Water Innovation for a Resilient Electricity System) Initiative.

The HydroWIRES Initiative focuses on understanding, enabling, and improving the full potential of hydropower and pumped storage hydropower to contribute to reliability, resilience, and integration in a rapidly evolving electric system.

As the electricity system undergoes rapid changes, the U.S. hydropower fleet is well positioned to take on a new role as an integrator and enabler of other resources. This new role is characterized by additional value streams, enhanced flexibility, new operational strategies, and innovative technology solutions. NREL—together with four other Department of Energy national laboratories—supports this new role through development of modeling, analysis, tools, and targeted technology R&D for the benefit of the broader community.

NREL is also one of nine national labs selected to champion its own lab-directed project and advance the HydroWIRES Initiative. The lab is leading an effort to evaluate novel hydropower controls—which govern how fast generators spin—in a low-risk, simulated environment rather than a risky, expensive, and time-consuming field validation. The real-world simulation will validate how well new controls handle various grid conditions.

The HydroWIRES portfolio includes four research areas:

  1. Value Under Evolving System Conditions
  2. Capabilities and Constraints
  3. Operations and Planning
  4. Technology Innovation.

The first two areas establish a baseline understanding of what services may be most valuable for the grid and what services hydropower can contribute. The third research area defines how these findings can be operationalized (i.e., it illustrates how the fleet can take advantage of opportunities in terms of operations and planning). The final research area integrates findings from the others to inform technology development and innovation that can expand hydropower and pumped storage technologies' abilities to provide valuable grid services. NREL provides leadership in research areas 2 and 3.


Stuart Cohen

Researcher V, Model Engineering