Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced the opening of a new prize competition — the Fish Protection Prize — designed to generate innovative methods for keeping fish out of water diversions and dam intakes. The prize, jointly sponsored by the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO), builds on an ideation competition run by Reclamation that was awarded in December 2019.

The movement of fish into water infrastructure separates fish from their natural habitat and can impact native populations, threaten biodiversity, and impede recovery efforts for threatened and endangered species. The Fish Protection Prize will help protect fish from these effects by inviting innovators to submit concepts. Up to 10 finalists will be awarded 50 hours of support for the INCUBATE Stage of the competition to refine their concepts, develop a test plan, and be eligible to compete in a pitch contest. At the final PITCH CONTEST stage of the prize, finalists will present their ideas live and compete for $700,000 of combined cash prizes and voucher support for up to three winners.

“NREL has strong commitments to supporting wildlife conservation efforts while also advancing water power technologies,” said Tessa Greco, the principal investigator leading the NREL team’s support of the prize. “That’s why we are pleased to develop and administer this prize, which is designed to improve the effectiveness of fish-exclusion devices, on behalf of DOE and Reclamation.”

The prize is a collaborative effort with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which is providing technical expertise and support through in-kind services at the labs for the selected finalists.

Competitors are invited to propose solutions for any fish species found in the United States that can be applied to river and irrigation canal diversions, unscreened diversion pipes for irrigation or municipal water supplies, cooling water intakes of power plants, or dam intakes. New ideas for addressing fish exclusion or improvements to existing technologies — physical and non-physical — are welcome. The CONCEPT Stage of the competition is open until April 15, 2020.