U.S. Department of Energy Hydropower Collegiate Competition (HCC)
U.S. Department of Energy Hydropower Collegiate Competition
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The hydropower industry is critical to the Biden Administration’s goal of achieving a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035. Hydropower already plays an important role in our power system—it provides 37% of total U.S. renewable electricity generation and 93% of grid-scale energy storage—and yet it still has untapped potential and significant opportunity for growth. However, this growth can only be realized with further innovation and a new generation of skilled workers to support this clean energy transition.
To pave the way for next-generation workers to start their careers in clean energy, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in partnership with the Hydropower Foundation, have established the Hydropower Collegiate Competition. In its first year, the competition called on interdisciplinary teams of undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of academic programs to offer unique solutions to complex hydropower challenges.
For the 2023 Hydropower Collegiate Competition, collegiate teams competed in two contests, which included the following deliverables:
- The Case Study Contest
- A Case Study Report: Teams submitted a 20-page report analyzing a case study issued by NREL that focuses on how hydropower fits into a future power grid supported by 100% renewable energy and the associated opportunities and challenges of incorporating the hydropower fleet into this clean energy vision. Teams selected a dam for the case study.
- A Pitch and Q&A Session: Teams participated in a 10-minute public pitch, sharing their approach to their case study. This was followed by 10 minutes of questions from a panel of judges.
- The Connections Creations Contest
- A Team Story: Teams submitted a 1- to 2-page team summary detailing their project, goals, and background.
- Discovering the Hydropower Industry Interviews: Teams explored multiple sectors of the hydropower industry and learn about career opportunities. Each team interviewed a minimum of four industry professionals and shared insights about their roles and experience in the final presentation.
- Community Engagement: Each team organized and ran at least one educational event with middle school, high school, or post-secondary students and/or the general public.
- A Final Presentation: Teams developed a final PowerPoint presentation to share their results on each competition element. Each team had 10 minutes to present to a panel of judges. This was followed by 10 minutes of questions from the judges.
The 2024 Hydropower Collegiate Competition asks multidisciplinary teams to develop solutions to add power-generating infrastructure to existing non-powered dams. Notably, less than 3% of the nation’s more than 90,000 dams produce electricity.
Teams will compete in three required challenges and one optional challenge:
- The Siting Challenge, in which teams select an existing, non-powered dam for conversion
- The Design Challenge, in which teams either create a conceptual design for their selected hydropower conversion site or design a component or system related to the development of their selected site
- The Community Connections Challenge, in which teams conduct outreach with the hydropower industry and their local communities
- The Optional Build and Test Challenge, in which teams build and test a scaled prototype of their hydropower conversion site, component, or system. The scores teams receive in this category will not contribute toward the scoring for the competition’s overall first-, second-, and third-place prizes.
Who Can Participate?
Competition organizers encourage undergraduate and graduate students from post-secondary institutions (including colleges, universities, community colleges, and trade schools) to apply. Both U.S. and non-U.S. institutions can apply, but only U.S. institutions are eligible to receive Water Power Technologies Office funding. Partnerships between U.S. and non-U.S. institutions are welcomed.
Why Should Teams Participate?
The Hydropower Collegiate Competition and Marine Energy Collegiate Competition offer students the chance to engage with leaders of marine energy and hydropower companies and learn about the sector from industry insiders. Industry members have played an important role in the success of these competitions by providing educational presentations, serving as judges during the final events, and networking with students to offer career advice and make connections that helped them land jobs.
STEM & Workforce Development Resources
- Marine Energy Collegiate Competition
- STEM for Hydropower Portal
- Fact Sheet: NREL Programs Channel Students Toward the Future Water Power Workforce
- Fact Sheet: Prizes Power NREL Water Power Innovation