A team of electrical and computer engineering researchers at the University of Utah, including associate professor Masood Parvania and graduate students Majid Majidi, Alex Farley, and Luis F. Rodríguez-Garcia, have just received the grand prize in the second phase of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hydropower Operations Optimization (H2Os) Prize.

The group also won the grand prize last summer in the first phase of the three-stage competition. It’s HydroFlex technology, which is a cloud-based software package that can intelligently manage when it is best for hydropower units to generate electricity, was named among the best cutting-edge solutions for hydropower development.

In generating electricity, it is necessary to combine the available energy resources — coal and gas plants, solar and wind farms, and hydropower, among others — to meet customers’ demands. HydroFlex, which operates on a cloud-computing server, calculates the amount of electricity a hydropower unit should generate to reduce the operation of traditional power plants, especially when electricity consumption is higher, such as at night. The purpose is to maximize generating electricity from cleaner hydropower units, which leads to reduced emissions.

Parvania’s team, which received the top prize in the competition, is one of six given awards in the second stage of the Hydropower Operations Optimization (H2Os) Prize. These teams developed high-tech solutions to improve hydropower operations and grid resiliency with the goal of supporting U.S. efforts to achieve a carbon-free power grid by 2035. The competition is hosted by the Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO).

“These innovators are helping define hydropower’s role in a more resilient energy system,” said Sam Bockenhauer, lead of WPTO’s Hydropower and Water Innovation for a Resilient Electricity System Initiative. “Their solutions are exploring how hydropower can best provide flexible, on-demand power for our grid, especially as more variable renewable energy resources become part of the mix.”

The U team received $7,500. Submissions for the third phase of the competition are due Nov. 11.