American-Made Challenges

Groundbreaking Hydro Prize

Help support the foundations that enable tomorrow’s hydropower development!

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) launched the Groundbreaking Hydro Prize to encourage the development of new ideas to cut the costs, timelines, and risks associated with hydropower development. Inspiring innovators to compete for $300,000 in cash prizes, the Groundbreaking Hydro Prize elicits innovative concepts for geotechnical hydropower foundations. As many as nine winners will be selected.

Are you ready for the challenge?

graphic image of a hydropower dam with workers standing on it holding blueprints, in front of a backdrop with kayakers on a reservoir and elk in a meadow surrounded by trees.

Like roots to a tree, geotechnical foundations provide structural support to a hydropower facility, and must be developed to ensure stability, safety, and performance for decades. While foundations are central to dam safety, challenges in their design and construction can lead to major project delays and cost overruns, potentially jeopardizing a project’s success.

Through the Groundbreaking Hydro Prize, WPTO is soliciting solutions that address key challenges faced in one or more of the three foundation development phases, namely:

  • Geotechnical Site Assessment: Activities performed to obtain information needed to design and construct a hydropower foundation system
  • Foundation Design: Process of using information from the site assessment to perform analyses and develop a cost-effective foundation system that meets the project design criteria
  • Foundation Construction: Activities performed by the contractor, from mobilization through project commissioning, to fully develop the foundation system.

Targeting the most promising opportunity for future hydropower growth, the prize seeks solutions that are:

  • Low head (less than 30 feet)
  • New stream-reach development (NSD): Sites defined as stream segments without hydroelectric facilities or other hydraulic structures
  • Applicable to soil foundations.

Please note that superstructures, including dams, are excluded from the prize scope.

Goals of the Prize

Proposed methods, techniques, and technologies should aim to:

  • Reduce construction costs
  • Shorten overall installation times
  • Minimize ground excavation
  • Avoid disturbances in river connectivity during installation, operation, and maintenance (e.g., not use cofferdams when possible)
  • Leverage advanced materials and techniques.
  • Prevent foundation treatment failures.

Solutions may stem from within the hydropower industry or leverage lessons learned from a diverse set of fields, from maritime construction to advanced manufacturing, offshore wind, transportation, residential and commercial building industries, and beyond to develop transformative methods or technologies that can be applied to hydropower projects.

The Groundbreaking Hydro Prize will award $300,000 in cash prizes. Three finalists will be selected as the Groundbreaking Prize winners, each receiving $50,000; up to six Innovator Prize winners will be selected to receive $25,000 each.

Important Dates

Final Dates are forthcoming and subject to change.
  • Prize opens: September 25, 2020
  • Prize closes: January 31, 2021
  • Winners Announcement: April 2021

Sign up for updates on our HeroX challenge page.

Who can participate?

Any innovators, visionaries, or enthusiasts from across a variety of industries can apply! Join the community as an individual and find like-minded collaborators.

Solutions that help shape the future

Image of a contruction crew reviewing plans while overlooking a excavated job site, in progress to becoming a foundation for a hydro project.

Are you a thinker, entrepreneur, or potential partner? Anyone with an innovative idea can participate in the American-Made Challenges.

Ready for the Challenge?