NREL Names FAST Prize Concept Stage Winners

Nine pumped-storage hydropower (PSH) concepts today were named winners of the latest stage in the FAST Commissioning for Pumped-Storage Hydropower (PSH) prize competition.

The FAST Prize—which stands for “Furthering Advancements to Shorten Time”—is part of the American-Made Challenges series, designed to accelerate the commissioning times of PSH projects from 10 years to five, while reducing both cost and risk. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) administers and executes these prizes on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WETO).

The nine winners of the Concept Stage were selected from a field of 22 finalists. They will now move on to the “incubation stage” of the competition, which will culminate in pitch presentations on Oct. 8. At that time, up to three grand prize winners will win up to $550,000 in vouchers and cash prizes.

As part of a $2 million effort, NREL is working with laboratory partners Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to provide 50 hours of in-kind laboratory support for the nine concept winners during the incubation stage.

The Concept Stage Winners are:

  • Tom Eldredge – 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.
  • David Gatto Ames Construction combined several modern construction business acumen and advanced management techniques.
  • Tracy Livingston – Individual competitor combined excavation equipment modifications and process optimizations to achieve up to 50% reduction in excavation timelines.
  • Nicholas Jaffa – Penn State Applied Research Laboratory developed a pump-turbine concept that is modular, rapidly deployable, scalable, configurable, and operates flexibly to enable distributed low-head PSH.
  • Peter Schubert – Individual competitor analyzed the use of existing mine voids for housing hydraulic wind turbines to loft water to provide quickly-commissioned PSH, while tenting the upper lake for non-electric revenues.
  • Charlie Smith – Individual competitor analyzed using storm water storage tunnels during non-storm event periods in conjunction with local natural bodies of water for PSH energy generation.
  • Doug Spaulding – Nelson Energy proposes use of tunnel boring machines for underground excavation, which can decrease excavation time by 50% and reduce costs.
  • Eric Thompson – Southwest Research Institute analyzed promising opportunities for closed-loop PSH in west Texas using interconnected reservoirs, package turbine units, and fracking wastewater.
  • Gordon Wittmeyer – Southwest Research Institute presented a modular steel concept for dams that cuts cost by one-third and cuts construction schedules in half.

“The concepts developed by all of the winners are very promising for the future of PSH,” said Tessa Greco, the project manager who leads this initiative for NREL. “It will be exciting to help the winners further develop their innovations by leveraging the technical expertise, facilities, and marketing reach of the national laboratory network.”

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.

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