On October 21, 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”) announced three new funding opportunities to support research and development projects for hydropower infrastructure in the United States.  The funding totals $28 million and is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s efforts to advance hydropower as a clean energy source.  DOE explains that the funding will support the expansion of: (1) “low-impact hydropower,” such as retrofits for dams that do not currently produce power and existing pumped storage hydropower facilities, (2) the development of new pumped storage hydropower facilities, and (3) engagement with “key voices” on issues including fleet modernization, sustainability, and environmental impacts.

DOE explains that the first funding opportunity includes $14.5 million, which has been set aside to advance the sustainable development of hydropower and pumped storage facilities by retrofitting non-powered dams and developing technology that helps mitigate challenges to pumped storage deployment. Specifically, DOE seeks applicants that will address challenges with pumped storage facilities such as market development and revenue uncertainty, development costs and financing, long development timelines, permitting challenges, construction risks, and environmental impacts.  DOE also notes that this funding will be used to increase opportunities for outside organizations to engage with DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office and support hydropower research.  

The second funding opportunity provides $10 million to support transmission studies, power market assessments, and other studies required to license, construct, and commission new pumped storage hydropower facilities. DOE notes that eligibility for this funding is limited to projects that have received a FERC preliminary permit and aim to license a pumped storage project with at least 1,000 MW capacity that can participate in multiple markets and store intermittent renewable energy generated on tribal lands. Lastly, DOE states that it will use the remaining $4 million to advance the efforts of diverse hydropower stakeholders on topics such as modernization, sustainability, and environmental impact. DOE envisions that recipients of this funding will “actively convene, engage, and facilitate discussions among a diverse group of hydropower stakeholders” including representatives from Tribal nations, hydropower developers, owners and operators of hydropower facilities, research institutions, hydropower industry representatives, NGOs, non-profit organizations, resource agencies, and other interested parties.

Funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is aimed at supporting President Biden’s goal of reaching 100% carbon pollution free electricity by 2035 and a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.

Additional information on the funding opportunities is available here.